In an attack on the Walz’s administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Senate Republicans have threatened to fire Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm during a potential special session. As part of their effort to justify such an action, Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, in a November 15th interview with Cathy Wurzer, implied that Commissioner Malcolm was inaccessible to legislators and suggested that she was not keeping ‘the legislature up to date on what is going on.’ Senator Miller said that in regard to COVID-related matters, there has been “little, or in most cases, no communication with the legislature.”
In response, Senator John Marty (DFL-Roseville), released the following statement:
“Commissioner Malcolm is a highly respected public health official and one of the most dedicated and hardest working people in public office. She has worked long hours, week after week, throughout the duration of the pandemic and continues to do so. Commissioner Malcolm has been very accessible to legislators and she responds to questions and concerns. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has held regular COVID-19 briefings for the legislature during the entire pandemic. Every legislator, of both parties, has been invited to participate in each of these meetings.
Commissioner Malcolm has been present at almost all of the briefings and has responded to all the questions participants asked. She has remained in close contact with the committee chairs and members who work with her agency. As one who works on public health issues, I hear from Commissioner Malcolm and her office routinely and know she responds to questions promptly. If Senator Miller has chosen not to participate in the briefings and if he has never reached out to her to talk until now, that is a shortcoming on his part, not proof that she refuses to communicate. Any implications that she has kept the legislature out of the loop are false.
Senate Republicans, who refused to take up Commissioner Malcolm’s confirmation when she was appointed three years ago, now threaten to move forward with the confirmation process so they can fire her — a move that will likely score points with their political base. Although they have the right to disagree and oppose the difficult public health decisions Commissioner Malcolm made to address this deadly pandemic, pretending that she has been anything other than fully accessible and engaged with legislators is outrageous and dishonest.
The Republican threat to fire Commissioner Malcolm has been a major obstacle to a special session to allocate the long-overdue compensation for frontline workers who have sacrificed greatly during the pandemic. Firing Commissioner Malcolm, who is leading Minnesota’s COVID-19 response, would be a big mistake especially at a time when Minnesota’s hospitals are straining to meet the healthcare needs of Minnesotans. Republican efforts to justify that action by distorting her record and implying that she is providing ‘little or no…communication with the legislature’ are false and unacceptable.”