Democratic senator to introduce bill to limit Trump’s ability to fire Fauci
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) on Tuesday said that he will be introducing legislation to limit President Trump’s ability to fire Anthony Fauci, amid a swirl of speculation that the public health official’s job could be in jeopardy.
The bill would allow Trump to fire a director of a national research institute or national centers under the National Institutes of Health (NIH) only “on the basis of malfeasance by, neglect of office by, or incapacity of the director.” Currently, Markey said, a director can be fired for any reason.
Markey called Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the “most trusted voice” within the scientific community when it comes to the coronavirus and warned that he shouldn’t be fired for disagreeing with Trump.
“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,” Markey said in a statement.
“Educating the public about the science and the facts that will save lives is not, and should never be, a firing offense,” added Markey, who is up for reelection this year and facing a tough primary challenge from Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.).
The legislation, according to Markey’s office, would give NIH directors like Fauci similar job protections to the heads of independent agencies like the Federal Trade Commission, where federal law includes built-in restrictions on a president’s ability to fire the officials.
Fauci’s future has become a source of speculation around Washington after he told CNN that more lives could have been saved if the federal government had moved forward with social distancing guidelines directing Americans to avoid public places and travel earlier than mid-March.
Fauci tried to downplay any break with Trump during a press briefing on Monday, saying that Trump immediately backed social distancing recommendations from Fauci and other public health officials despite the economic pain.
“The first and only time that I went in and said we should do mitigation strongly, the response was, ‘yes, we’ll do it,’” Fauci told reporters in the White House briefing room.
The White House has also pushed back on speculation that Fauci’s job is in danger, after the president shared a tweet over the weekend that contained the hashtag “FireFauci.”
“This media chatter is ridiculous — President Trump is not firing Dr. Fauci,” deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said in a statement.
Gidley added that Fauci “has been and remains a trusted advisor to President Trump.”