Governors Unhappy as Biden Skips Weekly COVID Conference Calls, Places Cuomo in Charge

United States governors have expressed frustration that President Joe Biden has not joined his administration’s weekly coronavirus calls since taking office, leaving some states in the dark.

All 50 governors tune into a conference call every Tuesday to discuss federal and state responses to the coronavirus pandemic, RealClearPolitics reported.

During the Trump administration, Vice President Mike Pence led 39 of the 40 weekly conversations and President Donald Trump attended eight calls.

However, since his inauguration in January, Biden has not attended a single call.

“It’s been a real frustration,  I think it’s safe to say, for all 50 governors,” Republican New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu told RealClearPolitics.

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“It would go a long way if the president would just get on the phone, or the vice president would get on the phone and take questions. Allow us to ask the folks in charge questions.”

Republican Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts added that Vice President Kamala Harris “has only been on one, but that was for about five minutes and she didn’t take any questions.”

“It really is not the type of bipartisanship partnership that the president promised when he came into office in his inaugural address. It really is much more of a top-down, we-are-going-to-do-what-we-are-going-to-do thought process,” he said.

Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, chairman of the National Governors Association, leads the calls instead of the vice president because the calls needed to change, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

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“There were operational aspects of the way the last administration approached COVID and approached the distribution of vaccines or approached planning and engagement with governors that wasn’t working,” Psaki said in a March news briefing.

“And our effort was to work much more directly in a range of means, in a range of ways up and down the ranks in these states to ensure that we were addressing the local needs as they came up. … I think [Cuomo’s] in that position because he is head of the NGA. And it’s up to the NGA to determine if that’s where they want to see things, moving forward.”

Jeffrey Zients, the White House COVID response coordinator, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House chief medical adviser, both participate in the calls, but Ricketts said it is not the same as having “high-level access to the decision-makers who can move the bureaucracy.”

Many governors were frustrated with the lack of guidance on how to spend American Rescue Plan money and how to best distribute vaccines.

RealClearPolitics asked one anonymous governor if it would help to get Biden on the phone, to which the governor responded, “not really.”

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“We know everything there is to know about this right now. We know how to deal with it,” the governor said.

Ricketts even said he had been unaware of the temporary pause the Food and Drug Administration put on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and had given a news conference touting the vaccine right before he heard the news.

“For us to be left in the dark about this is very frustrating,” Ricketts said.

“They didn’t even pick up the phone, and say, ‘Hey, by the way, you might see this in the news. We’ll explain it on the call,'” Sununu said.

“Communication is not the administration’s strong point, but it’s still important. Transparency is the foundation of public trust, especially during a crisis.”

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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