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U.S. Sen. Angus King blasted the federal government’s coronavirus testing efforts in a conference call with Vice President Mike Pence on Friday, according to Washington reporters.
King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, had a series of testy exchanges with Pence during the discussion held by Pence with Senate Democrats regarding the federal government’s COVID-19 test-expansion efforts that culminated with King calling the federal effort “a dereliction of duty,” according to reporters.
“I have never been so mad about a phone call in my life,” King said, according to Politico.
The call between President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force and Senate Democrats on Friday left the Senate minority “livid,” according to one Democrat on the call, due to the lack of clear answers about national testing for the disease, Politico reported.
Pence reportedly told King that there have been misunderstandings about the federal government’s work with states and explained that the administration had been coordinating with states to ramp up testing.
But Democrats said afterward they felt he wasn’t giving clear answers to their questions.
King told the Washington Post after the call that “I can’t discern a national strategy [for testing] … I can’t even discern what the goal is.”
Other meeting participants had complaints. U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire, tweeted afterwards that she found it “deeply concerning” that the administration hasn’t begun tracking daily coronavirus testing capacities in the nation’s laboratories. She said the federal government should release that data and develop a timeline for identifying testing gaps.
King and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, made news Thursday when it was announced that they were among more than two dozen members of Congress appointed Thursday to a presidential task force created to advise on reopening the U.S. economy from the coronavirus-induced shutdown. King will participate in a telephone press conference on Monday to discuss the pandemic’s impact on Maine’s healthcare system.
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