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Joe Battenfeld is a political columnist for the Boston Herald.
First, Liz Cheney, now Anthony Fauci.
Chalk up another victim of the likely hostile GOP takeover of Congress.
While Cheney got blasted in a 40-point election loss, Fauci — the public face of the government’s botched battle against COVID — is fleeing in December, weeks before Republicans could be starting their revenge tour in Washington.
It’s no coincidence that the good doctor announced his departure just as Republican leaders began plotting to hold hearings into the government’s COVID response and the origins of the deadly virus.
Fauci was a lightning rod and a foil for the right. He became a symbol of the authoritarian approach of the Biden administration toward COVID. His quitting removes a major political distraction before the midterm elections and comes as the Biden administration seeks to revamp the harshly-criticized CDC.
Republicans are already trying to raise money off his resignation.
“Did you hear the news, my friend?” Gail Huff Brown, the wife of former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown and now a congressional candidate in New Hampshire wrote to supporters. “After forcing mandates on Granite Staters and crippling our economy, Mr. Bureaucrat is calling it quits. As your voice in Congress, I will make sure we protect our institutions from power-hungry bureaucrats like Dr. Fauci.”
Fauci may hope to blunt the impact of his tenure as COVID czar by leaving, but if he thinks he’ll escape Washington unscathed, he better think again.
“Retirement can’t shield Dr. Fauci from congressional oversight,” said U.S. Rep. James Comer, the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee who would likely lead any investigations next year.
Fauci says he is quitting his role as chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden to “pursue the next phase” of his career, whatever that means.
But Republicans have already launched their own probes into the origins of the coronavirus that wreaked havoc on the world.
“Fauci’s resignation will not prevent a full-throated investigation into the origins of the pandemic. He will be asked to testify under oath regarding any discussions he participated in concerning the lab leak,” tweeted Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican who has clashed publicly with Fauci and could become the chairman of the Senate Health Committee next year.
“Never has one arrogant bureaucrat destroyed more people’s lives,” tweeted Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
That seems a little harsh. Fauci was definitely no politician and made many mistakes but he largely kept his mouth shut during the Trump era — standing there looking pained while the former president tried to downplay the virus — and took the brunt of criticism anyway for the pandemic response.
He will go down in history as a controversial figure but one who became a cultural icon to many Democrats.