(The Center Square) – President Joe Biden intends to tap Dr. Mandy Cohen, who has served as the secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services, to lead the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Dr. Cohen is one of the nation’s top physicians and health leaders with experience leading large and complex organizations, and a proven track-record protecting Americans’ health and safety,” Biden said.
A formerly unremarkable agency was thrust to the forefront of national attention and political division during the COVID-19 pandemic as federal policies recommended by federal health authorities became increasingly divisive.
Now, the CDC faces ongoing scrutiny over how it responded to the pandemic, what health research it funds, and how political interests may have influenced official federal health guidance. Outgoing CDC head Dr. Rochelle Walensky took fire for her work in the role and even recently admitted the agency’s failings in handling the pandemic.
Cohen will likely have to navigate these challenges in her new role, which does not need to be confirmed by Congress.
In anticipation of Biden’s pick, more than two dozen Republican lawmakers sent a letter to Biden last week blasting Cohen and pushing him to not choose her for the position.
The letter points to Cohen’s strong advocacy for COVID-19 lockdowns and masking young children in schools in North Carolina.
“Dr. Cohen’s willingness to threaten the school district put politics over the well-being of children and is just another example of the litany of public health abuses the American people endured at the hands of bureaucrats throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter said.
The Republicans also point to Cohen’s connections to the Democratic party.
“In 2009, she served as the National Outreach Director for the group ‘Doctors for Obama,’ later known as ‘Doctors for America,’ a partisan political association that not only campaigned for Obama’s presidency but also endorsed an unconstitutional ban on semi-automatic rifles and lobbied to classify climate change as a ‘public health crisis,’ ” reads the letter, which was signed by both House and Senate Republicans.
The letter also points to Cohen’s Twitter, where she fundraised for Democrats as recently as last August.
“Given her strong affiliation with the Democrat Party and the COVID-19 lockdowns, it will be difficult for the American people to trust Dr. Cohen to run the CDC as a nonpartisan actor who makes objective decisions rooted in scientific data, and not in political expediency,” the letter adds.
While Republicans took issue with Cohen’s record, Biden pointed to Cohen’s experience as a sign of her qualifications to head up the CDC.
“Her leadership through the COVID-19 crisis drew bipartisan praise, as did her successful transformation of North Carolina’s Medicaid program and pivotal role in the bipartisan passage of Medicaid expansion,” Biden said in the statement. “Before serving in North Carolina, Dr. Cohen held senior roles at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services where she helped implement Affordable Care Act programs, including expanding insurance coverage and protections.”