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Sanders rips Pence: His last response to an epidemic was to 'pray' it away

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Tipping point week for Trump, Biden, Congress, voters Biden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Push to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw MORE (I-Vt.) on Wednesday slammed President TrumpDonald John TrumpNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter DC correspondent on the death of Michael Reinoehl: 'The folks I know in law enforcement are extremely angry about it' Late night hosts targeted Trump over Biden 97 percent of the time in September: study MORE’s appointment of Vice President Pence as point man on the coronavirus outbreak, noting the HIV outbreak that occurred during Pence’s tenure as governor of Indiana as well as Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar’s refusal to promise that a coronavirus vaccine would be affordable to all.

“Trump's plan for the coronavirus so far:

-Cut winter heating assistance for the poor

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-Have VP Pence, who wanted to 'pray away' HIV epidemic, oversee the response

-Let ex-pharma lobbyist Alex Azar refuse to guarantee affordable vaccines to all

Disgusting,” Sanders tweeted Wednesday.

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Sanders embedded a clip of Azar, under questioning from Rep. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyPelosi, Mnuchin continue COVID-19 talks amid dwindling odds for deal Pocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair Hillicon Valley: Facebook to label posts if candidates prematurely declare victory | Supreme Court hears landmark B Google, Oracle copyright fight | House Dem accuses Ratcliffe of politicizing election security intel MORE (D-Ill.), saying “we would want to make sure that we worked to make” a vaccine affordable to anyone in need of it, “but we can’t control that price, because we need the private sector to invest.”

Pence faced widespread criticism as governor of Indiana following an HIV outbreak in Scott County led to more than 200 cases in 2015 after Pence and GOP state lawmakers defunded Planned Parenthood, which was one of the primary vectors of HIV testing in the county.

The then-governor, asked if he would support a needle exchange program to slow the HIV spread, said, “I’m going to go home and pray on it.” He would later sign legislation for a temporary exchange program two months after the outbreak was initially detected.

Pence said Wednesday at a press conference with Trump and public health officials that his role in a possible coronavirus outbreak would be to bring Trump “the best options for action” and to “see to the safety and well-being and health of the American people.”

The coronavirus has infected more than 80,000 people globally and with more than 2,500 deaths.

The World Health Organization announced Wednesday that for the first time since the outbreak began in December, more new cases were being reported outside of China than in it.