You’d be forgiven for thinking that President Donald Trump had absolutely pillaged the budget for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That’s because the Democrats have made this claim a central part of their messaging.
“They’ve cut the funding for the CDC,” Joe Biden said on ABC’s “This Week” at the beginning of March. “They’ve cut the — the Centers for Disease Control. They’ve cut the funding for — they’ve tried to cut the funding for NIH, the National Institute of Health.”
The former vice president doubled down on these arguments on Twitter just a few days ago: “It’s never a matter of if another pandemic will happen, it’s just a matter of when — and it’s the president’s job to ensure we’re ready,” Biden tweeted Friday. “Donald Trump’s careless, shortsighted actions left our nation ill-prepared and now Americans are paying the price.”
It’s never a matter of if another pandemic will happen, it’s just a matter of when — and it’s the president’s job to ensure we’re ready.
Donald Trump’s careless, shortsighted actions left our nation ill-prepared and now Americans are paying the price. https://t.co/45GVHtxUHA
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) March 27, 2020
He wasn’t the only one. As FactCheck.org noted, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg claimed during the Feb. 25 debate that Trump “has defunded — he had defunded Centers for Disease Control, CDC, so we don’t have the organization we need.”
In the same debate, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said that Trump had “tried to cut back on the CDC.”
Two days later, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that “[t]he Trump budget calls for slashing almost $700 million from the Centers for Disease Control. And this was the budget which came out after we knew about the coronavirus threat.”
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Now, Klobuchar and Pelosi’s claims were a bit more fact-based than Biden and Bloomberg’s. But they’re still misleading.
Trump did not, in fact, successfully cut the CDC’s budget. And while he did request budget cuts, it turns out former President Barack Obama did the exact same thing.
So, a bit of background: Every year, the president submits a budget proposal to Congress. This budget proposal is essentially a wish list.
Even if his party controls Congress — which is where the budget originates from — there’s nothing that says Congress needs to pay attention to it.
Realistically, of course, the budget could serve as a guide for lawmakers when it comes to what the White House’s priorities are. At least this year, however, it doesn’t look like that’s going to be the case.
Here’s what Wyoming Republican Sen. Mike Enzi, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, had to say about the president’s 2021 budget proposal: “Congress doesn’t pay any attention to the president’s budget exercise.” He’s not even giving it a hearing.
Yes, the administration has proposed cuts to the CDC. Congress has rejected them.
According to FactCheck.org, in the 2020 fiscal year budget, Trump proposed a $750.6 million cut in CDC funding; Congress approved a budget that increased it by $420 million. Trump signed it.
But, there still remains the fact Trump asked for a cut in CDC funding. That looks bad — until you consider Obama did it in five out of his eight budget proposals.
“In its fiscal year 2013 budget, while Biden was vice president, the Obama administration sought a total funding level of $5.9 billion from the CDC, or a $569 million cut from the 2012 budget of $6.46 billion. In fiscal year 2015, the Obama administration wanted a $414 million cut year-over-year, and again in the fiscal year 2017 budget, the Obama administration looked to eliminate $251 million in CDC funding,” Fox News reported Saturday.
“The proposed cuts take into account money budgeted for The Prevention and Public Health Fund, which was established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 to bolster the nation’s health care system. When not including that fund, the Obama administration sought CDC cuts in five of its eight years.”
Obama also asked for a cut to immunization funding amid a measles outbreak in 2015.
And yet, the claim that Trump and Trump alone has been responsible for cuts that haven’t happened has been coming out of the Biden campaign with the regularity of a drumbeat.
It’s not for lack of fact-checking. FactCheck.org and The Associated Press have made it clear the claim is inaccurate.
“Trump’s budgets have proposed cuts to public health, only to be overruled by Congress, where there’s strong bipartisan support for agencies such as the CDC and NIH. Instead, financing has increased,” the AP reported Feb. 26.
“Indeed, the money that government disease detectives first tapped to fight the latest outbreak was a congressional fund created for health emergencies.
“Some public health experts say a bigger concern than White House budgets is the steady erosion of a CDC grant program for state and local public health emergency preparedness — the front lines in detecting and battling new disease. But that decline was set in motion by a congressional budget measure that predates Trump.”
This doesn’t get talked about very often because, well, we don’t talk that way about Saint Obama. He couldn’t possibly have asked for the same sorts of cuts that President Trump did.
Like it or not, that’s the case. Joe Biden, I would assume, knows this, given he was there in the White House when these cuts were proposed. (Well, he was present.)
He’s hammering away at Trump because it’s the only way he can get play in the media these days. The man who’s almost certain to win the Democratic presidential nomination has been almost entirely absent from the media discussion these past few weeks. When he’s managed to pop his head up from wherever he’s been socially isolating, it hasn’t gone well.
Inaccurate at best and totally erroneous at worst, these claims need to be called out for what they are. If the media won’t do it, Republicans must — or else this is going to be taken as gospel by voters when they go to the polls in November.
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