Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is working to capitalize on President Donald Trump's management of the coronavirus crisis, accusing the Trump administration of "severe shortcomings" in its response to the pandemic.
But Biden deployed an already-debunked Democratic talking point in Thursday remarks aimed at showcasing his own ability to lead the country through the crisis. The former vice president falsely stated that the Trump administration has cut investments in global health, a claim the Washington Post’s fact checker rated "Three Pinocchios" just days ago.
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"By cutting our investment in global health, this administration has left us woefully unprepared for the exact crisis we now face," Biden said in his address. The attack mirrored a February tweet from Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) that accused Trump of shutting down "37 of 47 global anti-pandemic programs."
Both Biden and Murphy were referring to the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), which the United States helped fund through a $600 million supplemental package to the CDC in 2015. As the initial funding dwindled in early 2018, reports emerged suggesting the Trump administration would scale back GHSA operations in all but 10 countries. But the cuts never happened, and the Trump administration’s proposed 2021 budget includes an increase in the GHSA’s annual appropriation.
"Murphy jumped to conclusions, assuming the funding reductions had gone into effect and the programs in nearly 40 countries were closed," the Post wrote in March. "But that's not correct.… The Trump administration backed off and now appears to fully support GHSA."
The Biden campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
The Trump administration’s requested CDC funding in 2021 includes $175 million for global health security, up from $125 million in 2020. The CDC currently operates in more than 60 countries under its current funding, and the Trump administration committed to extending GHSA funding beyond 2021.
"To ensure these successes continue their trajectory and maintain momentum, the administration has affirmed its commitment to strengthening global health security and fully supports the next phase, the GHSA 2024," the White House budget proposal states.
In his address, Biden appeared to attack the Trump administration for general cuts in CDC funding, saying, "Our government's ability to respond effectively has been undermined by hollowing out our agencies." But the Obama administration also proposed cuts to the CDC's budget before the 2014 Ebola outbreak. According to the CDC, Obama requested $4.99 billion in 2013 CDC funding, down from $6.31 billion in 2010, $6.26 billion in 2011, and $5.81 billion in 2012.
Biden also called for measures to fight the coronavirus that the Trump administration has already adopted. The former vice president called the administration's effort to test for the virus a failure, adding that "Anyone who needs to be tested based on medical guidance should be tested at no charge." The White House on Tuesday announced that insurance companies would waive all copays on coronavirus testing.