Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday called for HHS Secretary Alex Azar to resign over his stance on actions by President Donald Trump and HHS officials in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Schumer is the highest-ranking Democrat to call for Azar's resignation after recent reports that HHS staff tried to interfere with public health data reporting.
Schumer also criticized the President Donald Trump's reluctance to invoke the Defense Production Act to mandate production of personal protective equipments and the delegation of testing, supply distribution and contact tracing to state officials.
"The Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, has not only failed to push back against these outrageous moves by President Trump, he has been almost entirely silent about the chaos and mismanagement in his own agency," Schumer said on the Senate floor.
HHS aides' attempts to interfere with CDC weekly scientific reports was first reported by Politico. The House Committee on Oversight and Reform subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis has requested documents related to the interference and that involved individuals testify.
Officials at public health agencies should resist political influence, Schumer argued.
HHS spokesperson Caitlin Oakley said Azar has insisted that science and data drive decisions at HHS and that Trump have direct access to the nation's top doctors throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
"Senator Schumer's comments are uninformed and are an attempt to mislead the American people and discredit the historic work of the Trump Administration to combat COVID-19," Oakley said.
The top Democrat on the Senate health committee, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), on Monday called for Azar to demand that top HHS communications official Michael Caputo's resignation after The New York Times reported Caputo claimed that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientists are trying to undermine Trump.
"It's clear Sec. Azar can't meet his basic responsibilities while allowing Caputo, a yes-man for President Trump with no scientific expertise who publicly attacked CDC scientists & privately interfered with key CDC reports, to continue serving in such an influential role," Murray tweeted.