Bennet Pressures HHS Secretary Nominee Azar to Put Science Over Ideology

Following Reports of Health Officials Prohibiting Words in Budget Documents, Health Committee Democrats Seek Explanation

Washington, D.C. - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, along with the nine Democratic members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, today sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary nominee Alex Azar expressing concern over reports that the Trump administration is restricting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other agencies within HHS from using certain words or phrases in preparing documents for the Fiscal Year 2019 budget. Given the commitment to science and evidence that Mr. Azar made at his confirmation hearing, the senators requested an explanation as to how he would approach this issue in his position at HHS.

"We are incredibly concerned by this report; if true, it represents an unconscionable restriction on agency communications that prevents the department from accurately conveying the nature of its work, potentially posing a danger to critical health and scientific efforts," the senators wrote. "We also strongly oppose any communications, whether written or verbal, that suggest to Department and agency employees that they should avoid using particular words or phrases even if such guidance is not referred to as a ‘ban.'"

On December 15, 2017, news outlets reported that the administration had prohibited policy analysts from using a number of words and phrases in budget documents, including "diversity," "science-based," "fetus," and "transgender." CDC uses many, if not all, of the banned words. They are essential to CDC's work, including addressing the health trends of LGBTQ communities and researching the Zika virus and its impact on fetuses.

The senators wrote that this "ideological censorship...undermines much of CDC's work and the broader health mission of the Department."

A copy of the letter is available HERE.