March 11, 2020

Mass. Congressional Delegation Urges White House to Support Commonwealth's Coronavirus Efforts

Lawmakers Call on Pence to Take Specific Action to Support Massachusetts During COVID-19 Outbreak

Text of Letter (PDF)

Boston, MA - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA), along with Representatives James P. McGovern (D-MA-02), Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA-08), William Keating (D-MA-09), Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA-04), Katherine Clark (D-MA-05), Seth Moulton (D-MA-06), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-07) and Lori Trahan (D-MA-03), sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, head of the White House Task Force on Coronavirus, urging him to take swift, specific action to support Massachusetts and other states as they combat the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). This request comes in the wake of Governor Baker declaring a state of emergency in the Commonwealth.

"As the Task Force continues to respond to COVID-19's spread, it is essential that it supports and communicates with the state, local, and tribal governments providing on-the-ground responses to the virus," the lawmakers wrote.

In their letter, the Massachusetts lawmakers highlighted several steps the federal government could take to support Massachusetts during the outbreak, including:

  • Supporting the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's request for assets from the Strategic National Stockpile;
  • Taking all necessary steps to expand access to affordable COVID-19 diagnostic tests;
  • Continually monitoring the supplemental funding needs of Massachusetts public health officials and request supplemental funding from Congress as necessary; and
  • Considering the need for wraparound services for quarantined, sick, and other individuals affected by COVID-19.

"While our request is specific to Massachusetts, we believe that the Task Force should consider taking these actions in support of other states as well," the lawmakers continued.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, Senator Warren has worked to ensure that the Trump Administration is effectively responding to the outbreak and that the U.S. has the resources needed to address this threat. Her ongoing efforts include the following:

  • Senators Warren led 14 of her Senate colleagues in writing to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and the three largest private prison operators asking about the policies and procedures that they have in place to prepare for and manage a potential spread of the novel coronavirus in federal prisons.
  • Senators Warren and Markey wrote to Vice President Pence expressing their concern about the troubling press conference held on Friday, March 6, 2020, by President Trump, at which he made a series of false, politicized, and nonsensical statements about the federal government's response to the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Senators Warren and Markey, along with Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), wrote to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to urge the agencies to suspend all immigration enforcement actions in and around hospitals and other medical facilities as the nation prepares for potential outbreaks of COVID-19.
  • Senator Warren joined HELP Ranking Member Parry Murray (D-Wash.) and eight other Democratic senators in requesting Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos provide details about the Department's coronavirus preparedness and response efforts and how the Department plans to protect students, teachers, and other school staff in the event of an outbreak.
  • Senator Warren also joined HELP Committee Ranking Member, Senator Murray, and their seven Democratic HELP Committee colleagues to request Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia provide details about the Department's coronavirus preparedness and response efforts and how the Department plans to protect the safety, health, and economic security of workers and their families in light of the increasing threat from the coronavirus.  
  • Senator Warren sent letters to the CEOs of Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley -- the U.S.-based "Too Big to Fail" banks with the largest foreign exposures -- asking about how they are monitoring and preparing to mitigate the economic risks of the outbreak of the coronavirus.
  • Senator Warren introduced legislation requiring all funds that have been appropriated to build a border wall -- including funds directly appropriated by Congress and funds diverted by the executive branch from other accounts -- to be immediately transferred to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for the purpose of combatting the novel coronavirus.
  • Senator Warren wrote to federal agencies raising concerns over reports that appeared to show confusion and disagreement between federal officials earlier this month when State Department and HHS officials overruled CDC recommendations during the evacuation of American citizens with coronavirus from Japan.
  • Senator Warren joined Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Murray and 24 of their Senate colleagues pressing the Trump Administration to request emergency funding for the coronavirus response. Their letter to HHS and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) also expressed concerns over the Trump Administration's failure to outline what additional resources it needs to respond to the rapidly developing coronavirus outbreak.
  • Senator Warren and Senator Murray led 25 of their Senate colleagues urging the head of the National Security Council (NSC) to appoint a senior global health security expert to manage the response to the threat. Senators Warren and Murray first raised concerns about this lack of public health leadership at the NSC in May 2018.
  • Senator Warren also joined Senator Murray and sent a letter to OMB and HHS opposing their decision to pull funding from existing public health programs to combat coronavirus rather than requesting supplemental funds from Congress.
  • On February 13, 2020, Senator Warren joined Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on a bipartisan letter calling on HHS to establish clear guidelines for how state and local governments will be reimbursed for costs incurred while assisting the federal response to the coronavirus outbreak.
  • On February 3, 2020, Senator Warren joined Senator Murray and Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) and 47 of their bipartisan colleagues calling on CDC to distribute rapid diagnostic tests for the novel coronavirus as quickly as possible and to prioritize states with confirmed cases of the virus to receive the first available test kits.
  • On January 31, 2020, after the first coronavirus case was confirmed in the United States, Senators Warren and Angus King (I-Maine) questioned USAID on the agency's 2019 decision to shutter PREDICT, a global infectious disease prevention program, which from 2009 to 2019, identified nearly 1,000 new viruses, including a new strand of Ebola; trained roughly 5,000 people; and improved or developed 60 research laboratories.
  • Also in January 2020, Senator Warren joined Senator Murray and 29 of their Democratic Senate colleagues sending a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar requesting updates on the Administration's response to the novel coronavirus outbreak and information on the steps being taken to keep families safe.
  • Further, following the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission's 2019 Annual Report that showed U.S. "growing reliance" on products critical to the manufacturing of drugs, which are primarily made in China, Senator Warren and a group of bipartisan senators wrote to the Department of Defense (DoD) seeking answers on how DoD is working to address the risk of reliance on foreign drug makers.