U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz is among a cohort of Democratic senators objecting to the Trump administration’s reported direction to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies to avoid using seven words and phrases in official budget documents.
The seven words and phrases the departments are reportedly discouraged from using are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”
The Washington Post, citing an anonymous source, reported Friday that the prohibition was made at a recent meeting of senior budget officials at the CDC. The seven words and phrases were not to be used in documents that are to be circulated within the federal government and Congress in preparation of the next presidential budget proposal, the paper reported.
On Saturday, a CDC official confirmed that CDC executives were given “feedback” from higher ranks of the federal government at a recent meeting to reconsider certain language in draft budget documents. But she said she did not know if there was any specific prohibition about using those seven words. She spoke on condition of anonymity, according to the Associated Press.
A spokesman at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees CDC, said in a statement that it’s a mischaracterization to say the CDC was banned from using certain words. But HHS officials did not clarify or answer any other questions.
In their letter to the CDC, HHS and the Office of Management and Budget today, the Democratic senators ask about the development and dissemination of any discouraged words, the legality and enforcement of such a policy, and the policies in place to ensure the scientific integrity of the health agencies. The senators requested a written response to their questions by Jan. 8.
“Such an agenda, especially if motivated by political factors, threatens to undermine the tremendous scientific progress at the CDC and the public’s faith in government, more broadly,” the letter signed by the senators said. “If true, this guidance is not just a mere change to vocabulary, it is a fundamental shift of direction and a reflection of flawed ideology. While Director [Brenda] Fitzgerald has recently denied the existence of such a ban, we request clarity on your policies via specific answers to the questions below.”
Schatz signed the letter, along with Sen.s Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).
The Associated Press contributed to this report.