OPINION: What Else Is Out There, President Biden?

Read original story in Real Clear Politics.

Continuing uncertainty about the pandemic has ensured that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will have a prominent role in the daily lives of Americans. Unfortunately, the agency isn’t living up to this responsibility. It seems to change its coronavirus guidance on a daily basis, as everything from masking requirements to quarantine recommendations remains in flux.  

Americans for Public Trust (APT) is committed to transparency, and through our efforts, we now know how the president and his administration politicized critical issues, including school reopening guidelines.

The CDC continues to issue unclear guidance, and Dr. Anthony Fauci admitted, when discussing isolation guidelines for asymptomatic Americans, that there had been some “pushback” from outside influences. Unsurprisingly, the CDC was forced to update that guidance. Uncertainty about whether the CDC is making decisions based on science or politics makes it essential that organizations continue to utilize Freedom of Information Act requests to compel transparency in 2022. 

When President Biden was sworn in one year ago, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki promised to “bring transparency and truth back to the government, to share the truth even when it’s hard to hear.” The president pledged to take politics out of the equation and “listen to the scientists” when it came to making decisions about the pandemic. Those promises quickly proved hollow. 

Through the FOIA process, APT exposed how, in the days before the CDC issued crucial school reopening guidance, the agency allowed officials from the nation’s largest teacher unions to shape and rewrite its guidelines. At the time, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky promised the public that the guidance was “free from political meddling,” even though nothing could be further from the truth. 

Under pressure from American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, the CDC added a disclaimer, opening the door for future school shutdowns. Union officials also wrote several suggested sections that the CDC literally copied and pasted into the final document. These changes were neither grounded in science nor inserted to help our children; they were a direct political payoff to a key voting bloc. 

Other emails reveal the Department of Health and Human Services was more concerned about accommodating teacher union concerns over contract negotiations than it was about our children. Instead of focusing on getting the science right and protecting our children, these officials placated groups that had spent tens of millions of dollars to get President Biden and his allies elected. 

The CDC continues to allow politics to influence policy. Even after APT exposed the union’s influence over school reopening guidance, the CDC yet again bowed and tightened the agency’s school mask requirements after union threats. 

As evidenced by the latest round of school closures, teacher unions keep saying, “Jump,” and the CDC keeps asking, “How high?” The agency even allowed union officials to insert “closure triggers” into school reopening guidance. 

Since President Biden took office, we don’t know what other special interest groups have been molding and shaping CDC policy. Debates over education and the coronavirus aren’t ending anytime soon, and we must continue holding the administration’s feet to the fire.  

The CDC’s guidance continues to morph and change as the political winds blow, and we don’t yet know to what extent outside political influence has shaped government policy. Whenever the CDC issues unclear guidance about isolation or masking, Americans are left wondering whether it is because of political pressure or incompetence. 

The president can’t be allowed to claim he is following the science when he’s allowing his political allies to write his policies. The American people deserve to know the truth about the president’s decisions, especially when they’re crucial to our children’s future. 

Caitlin Sutherland is executive director of Americans for Public Trust. 

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