Sheila Jackson Lee Blasts OMB Director for Diabetes-Shaming People

Representative Sheila Jackson Lee speaking in Houston in April.
Representative Sheila Jackson Lee speaking in Houston in April.
Photo by Hope Bauman

When you want a member of Congress to use a committee hearing to really hammer a point, Houston Democrat Representative Sheila Jackson Lee is the one to do it.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney appeared before the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday to testify about President Donald Trump's 2018 budget proposal, which includes a bid to slash Medicaid funding — and Lee started asking some very direct questions.

See, earlier this month Mulvaney spoke at a conference at Stanford University and was asked whether he supports keeping a clause to ensure that people can't be denied health insurance because of pre-existing conditions.

Mulvaney said yes, but with conditions.

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Specifically, he told the audience that while he is in favor of ensuring that people with pre-existing conditions can get health insurance, "that doesn't mean we should take care of the person who sits at home, eats poorly and gets diabetes."

This statement is troubling for many reasons. For one thing, as the American Diabetes Association has already pointed out, while it might be convenient to try to blame the people who get diabetes by claiming they're just lazy and thus deserve it, genetics are a major factor in the development of Type II diabetes. On top of that, African-Americans are 77 percent more likely to be diagnosed with the condition, which means that the people Mulvaney was claiming are undeserving of health care are far more likely to be black.

During the hearing, Lee went right for that statement, reading it back to Mulvaney and then rattling off her questions about what he really meant.

"Are you saying that you support a health-care plan that makes distinctions between the deserving ill and undeserving ill, in deciding who could get federal support and how much? Is that why you have the audacity to cut $880 billion out?"

Mulvaney tried to explain the quote away, but Lee wasn't having it.

"Regarding my statement last week on diabetes, I was speaking at a health-care conference, and what I was trying to do is draw a distinction between type 1 and type 2," he said.

"But you did say it," she asked.

"Again, I'm trying to put my comments into context, ma'am. I'm aware of the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes."

“But you’re not a doctor either?” Lee interjected.

“I am not a doctor; are you?” he shot back.

“I know diabetes," Lee replied. "It’s in my family and it’s in my community, and it particularly impacts African-Americans and we will be devastated by this budget along with working Americans, working families.”

Mulvaney had no response to that.

Lee is never one to shy away from the spotlight, as we've recently noted, but at the same time, when she's good, she's very good.


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