Vice President Mike Pence and Trump administration officials finally acknowledged the existence of Senate Democrats as a part of the nation's governing coalition Friday. Sort of. They held a conference call with the senators, and the reviews are not good.
"Livid," is how one Democrat on the call described the group, which did not get any good answers out of the call. Sen. Angus King, Maine's independent who caucuses with Democrats, reportedly called the administration's response to the crisis, particularly the failure to get testing ramped up, a "dereliction of duty." According to sources on the call, he told Pence, "I have never been so mad about a phone call in my life." After the call, he "was still very angry" when interviewed by Washington Post reporter Seung Min Kim, telling her "I can't discern a national strategy (for testing) ... I can't even discern what the goal is."
"The fundamental problem is a lack of capacity which at this point they can't fix," a Democrat on the call told Politico. "So they are explaining it away. […] Everyone was livid." They still are. "The Trump administration doesn't even have a target for the number of tests we need to be able to manage this health care crisis. It's beyond unbelievable," Sen. Elizabeth Warren told Boston Globe reporter Jess Bidgood. Sen. Maggie Hassan tweeted that "it is deeply concerning that the administration still doesn’t have a plan to track daily testing capacity in every lab in the country, publicly release that data, and put forward a plan and timeline for identifying gaps."
Sen. Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, wanted some accountability for Trump's earlier tweet, an aide on the call told CNN's Betsy Klein, and "asked Pence why the President was trying to incite division in the midst of a global pandemic." Pence, the aide said, "tried to deflect by talking about how they are working respectfully with Governors, and Kaine jumped back in to say that those tweets are not at all respectful."
So, yeah, that didn't go so well. It also probably did nothing to weaken unity among Senate Democrats in fighting for what the country needs.