Manchin, Sinema turn on Biden, join others holding him responsible for COVID test shortages

Do better. That is the message from some Senate Democrats to Joe Biden’s White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients. In a letter signed by the senators, they urged him to do better in their COVID response plan, present that plan to Congress and request additional funds if needed to contain the pandemic.

Two of the senators are Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Do you think maybe Biden’s heavy-handed approach to twisting their arms over blowing up the filibuster rules in order to get voting legislation passed that gives federal control over all elections may have something to do with their participation? Who could blame them for publicly striking back? You do your job, Joe, they’ll do theirs. The others who signed the letter sent Thursday to Zients are Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), and Jon Ossoff (D-GA). Kelly is Sinema’s colleague from Arizona and up for re-election. Kelly is seen as vulnerable by some analysts but his fundraising success may point to a different conclusion. He raised nearly $9M in the last quarter of 2021, leaving his GOP primary rivals in the dust. The question is, “why the Administration failed to take more significant steps earlier to increase access to at-home tests.”

“Across America, there are lines for city blocks long to get COVID testing, signs in pharmacies saying they are out of rapid tests, hospitals operating under crisis standards of care, health care staff and first responders falling ill, and millions of people who are exhausted from the toll this pandemic has had,” the lawmakers wrote.

“While we fully recognize the productive steps this Administration has taken to encourage vaccination, ensure ready access to vaccines, and increase options to treat the virus, far too many measures – such as increasing access to home-based testing – have been reactive, rather than proactive,” they added.

It’s a reasonable question. Biden ran on shutting down the coronavirus. He and his chief of staff dinged the Trump administration over a lack of a sufficient number of tests available for those in need of them. Yet, when they came into office, the Biden administration dropped the ball. The focus has been almost exclusively on vaccinations, not testing and therapeutic treatments. Biden’s failure on making tests available show his focus was more on bashing the former president than in developing plans of his own. It has been reported that the White House rejected an expert plan in October to produce 732 million tests per month. Biden denied that when questioned about it last month.

Biden announced in December that 500 million at-home tests would be provided from the federal government free of charge. Then this week, he announced another purchase of 500 million tests, likely due to criticism that the first order fell woefully short for the demand, especially since the emergence of the Omicron variant. However, the federal program looks doomed before it even starts. If Biden’s administration was truly the group of professionals who know how to keep government running smoothly, as Biden described them in the early days of his term, why have they waited months past the time they should have made such a plan and executed it?

The senators wrote: ‘The Administration either knew or should have known that testing shortages were occurring across the country over the past several months, and with the full expectation that the virus would likely mutate into a new variant steps to increase testing access should have happened before the current wave hit, not several weeks into the surge, with resources still not available until later this month or beyond.’

Other nations, including those in Europe and Asia, send out at-home, free tests. What happened to Joe’s favorite expression, “America’s back”?

Just as with his pledge to shut down the virus, Biden has failed to do what the administration is capable of doing to mitigate the virus. More people have died from the coronavirus during his administration than during Trump’s. That must be a bitter pill to swallow for a Trump-deranged man like Biden, hell-bent on proving how superior he is to Trump.

Even Democrats are asking why Biden is failing on some basic tasks. He had a truly horrible, very bad week and this letter from Senate Democrats just adds another item to the list of failures and defeats. Despite declaring that his administration would be the most transparent one ever, the Senate Democrats seem unconvinced. The White House hasn’t put forward its plan to address the increase in cases and how they will mitigate those cases going forward, they say.

In addition to the lack of tests, the senators also said they wanted Zients to “address the steps you have taken to prepare the country for the increase in cases” as well as “how you plan to mitigate the impact of the current and future variants moving forward.”

The letter concluded by calling on Zients to explain what the administration did to boost testing capacity after the discovery of Omicron in late November, what is being done “to shorten wait times and improve testing availability” at federally-run sites stood up by the White House last month, and how the “gap in public health data” due to the increase in at-home testing is being addressed.

The Biden administration has failed spectacularly in its first year. This was supposed to be the return of the adults, the people who would bring normal back to the White House. Instead, it looks like Joe Biden is a lame duck president before the official end of his first year in office.

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