Sen. Edward J. Markey wants to make sure President Donald Trump cannot fire National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci without a good reason.
Trump retweeted a social media post over the weekend with the hashtag “#FireFauci,” leading some to express concerns that the president is so unhappy with Fauci he would fire him in the middle of a global pandemic. The law allows the president to fire directors of the national research institutes for any reason, and the Massachusetts Democrat is proposing a new bill to change that.
Fauci has come under fire by Trump’s allies and the conservative media in recent days for public statements that appeared to contradict the president and how he has handled the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a CNN interview, Fauci appeared to say that efforts to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic as it began spreading in the United States could have saved American lives, but clarified at a Monday press conference. Fauci said he was answering a “hypothetical” question, but it “was taken as a way that maybe somehow something was at fault here.”
“Now more than ever, we must listen to our public health, medical, and scientific experts,” Markey said in a statement. “If Donald Trump doesn’t like science-based evidence because it doesn’t support his partisan, fact-free view of the world, he cannot be permitted to silence the truth-tellers.”
At least 582,634 people have contracted the virus and 23,649 people have died in the U.S., according to information from Johns Hopkins University.
Markey’s bill would make sure the 26 directors of the national research institutes and national centers that are parts of the National Institutes of Health could only be fired for malfeasance, neglect of office, or incapacity. Other independent agency heads, like the Federal Trade Commission and Social Security Administration, already have protections against retaliatory firings, a release from his office said.
Fauci has been the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, and has made many public appearances in recent days.
“Dr. Fauci has become the most trusted voice of the science community in responding to this pandemic. He is not afraid to speak truth to power,” said Senator Markey. “But Donald Trump has an allergy to both — science and the truth. Our response to the coronavirus crisis must be based on science, on data, and on the truth. We cannot allow Donald Trump to silence Dr. Fauci or any other government scientists.”
It’s unclear if the bill has bipartisan support, or if Markey will try to get the bill included in the next coronavirus aid package lawmakers are believed to be currently working on. Some Republican senators, such as Florida’s Marco Rubio, have voiced support for Fauci since Trump’s retweet.