Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, a Democrat who had emerged as the frontrunner to be President-elect Joe Biden's health secretary despite overseeing one of the deadliest Covid-19 outbreaks in the United States, announced Thursday that she has removed herself from contention for the job, much to the delight of progressives who had strongly opposed her candidacy and potential nomination.
"Her record on health is a total disaster—and because of her mismanagement, Covid-19 rates in Rhode Island are around twice the national average."
—David Segal, Demand Progress
"My focus is right here in Rhode Island," Raimondo said during a press conference on Thursday afternoon, a development first reported by Politico.
Regardless of the motives behind Raimondo's decision to withdraw from being considered to run the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in the Biden administration, the news was welcomed by critics who said Raimondo would be a "disastrous and harmful" pick for HHS secretary, as well as the U.S. public writ large, 70% of whom oppose Biden appointing the Rhode Island governor to any Cabinet position, according to recent polling.
"Raimondo is exactly the wrong person to pick if the goal is to instill confidence that the Biden administration can bring a swift end to the pandemic," David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress and former member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, said in a statement Thursday, prior to Raimondo's withdrawal.
"Her record on health is a total disaster—and because of her mismanagement, Covid-19 rates in Rhode Island are around twice the national average," Segal added. "Whether Covid-19, Rhode Island's Affordable Care Act insurance exchange, or a major benefits overhaul known as UHIP, she has a lengthy track record of failures in the healthcare space in particular."
Investigative journalist David Sirota, whose news outlet on Wednesday morning published a damning exposé of Raimondo, a former Wall Street executive who is opposed to Medicare for All and who cut public sector workers' pensions, tweeted Wednesday night: "We're in the middle of the worst public health crisis in modern history—it is absolutely amazing that a person with this particular record is even in CONTENTION for the nation's top healthcare job."
We're in the middle of the worst public health crisis in modern history -- it is absolutely amazing that a person with this particular record is even in CONTENTION for the nation's top health care job. Really think about what that says about our society. https://t.co/hhsr5Vc3bp— David Sirota (@davidsirota) December 3, 2020
As Daily Poster reporters Julia Rock and Andrew Perez explained Wednesday, Raimondo "approved health insurance companies' steep premium increases... amid the pandemic in August." She also issued an executive order in April that "helped nursing home lobbyists shield healthcare companies from coronavirus-related lawsuits."
Demand Progress on Thursday called her effort to shield nursing homes, hospitals, and other healthcare providers from liability "the culmination of a decade-old effort by the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council."
While Raimondo granted Rhode Island's nursing homes "legal immunity during the pandemic," the facilities' residents and workers have been left to face the "deadly consequences," noted Rock and Perez. "More than 70% of Covid-19 deaths in Rhode Island have been linked to long-term care facilities."
Also on Wednesday, The American Prospect's David Dayen reported on the Rhode Island governor's role in undermining women's reproductive rights by restricting access to abortion coverage in 2015, which the state ACLU called the "first anti-choice legislation passed in Rhode Island in more than 15 years."
Furthermore, according to Demand Progress, Raimondo "cut $58.7 million from Medicaid this year, while giving $15.7 million to insurance companies."
Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project, said Thursday morning, "We need a leader at HHS who can lift civil servant morale after years of unwarranted attacks by Trump and Alex Azar."
Raimondo, Hauser added, would have been "the wrong person with the wrong baggage at the most critical time."