Opinion: The two parties go different ways on COVID response

As President Joe Biden flew to Atlanta to make the case on voting rights and election changes in Congress, a U.S. Senate hearing was showcasing growing frustration within his own party about the federal Coronavirus response.

“I am concerned about the pandemic,” Biden told reporters before leaving for Georgia. “But I’m confident we’re on the right track.”

Senate Democrats weren’t so sure, signaling frustration over rising COVID cases in schools, shortages of test kits, and an overall exasperation with the pandemic.

“I’m frustrated we’re still behind on issues as important to families as testing and supporting schools,” said U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., an influential senior Democrat.

Gone were the days when Democrats could use a hearing like this to bluntly question the response of Donald Trump — as now the virus outbreak could cause their party headaches in 2022.

“In the future, the federal response must be more pro-active,” said U.S. Sen. Jackie Rosen, D-Nev. “I’m a little bit concerned about the testing keeping up with the variants.”

Oddly enough, one of the bipartisan political punching bags of the outbreak has turned out to be the Centers for Disease Control, the Atlanta-based federal health agency which has repeatedly struggled to clearly communicate what precautions the public should take against the virus.

Both parties made clear at this hearing that the surge of the Omicron variant — which has caused cases and hospitalizations to skyrocket — has perplexed Americans even more about the CDC’s guidance.

“We found it very confusing, and I think the American people find it confusing,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.

Republicans could have stayed on that course, and easily kept the COVID focus on the Biden Administration response.

But two GOP Senators couldn’t help themselves, unable to resist the conservative siren call to publicly tussle with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Republican whipping boy on the Coronavirus.

At these COVID hearings, the hectoring of Fauci by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan. has become Political Performance Art, where the GOP Senators belittle Fauci, basically claiming that he’s been lying his pants off about the pandemic.

Last year, Fauci responded with facts and details. Now, he’s just fed up.

“I have threats upon my life, harassment of my family,” Fauci told Paul.

“What a moron,” Fauci muttered after battling with Marshall this week.

Browbeating Fauci might feel good for the GOP — just look at U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, and her ‘Fire Fauci’ campaign — but as this latest hearing showed, it doesn’t really get us any closer to figuring out how best to deal with this pandemic.

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and the Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com