All four Democrats on the Senate Committee on Health Policy walked out in protest of the hearing to determine if Dr. Joseph Ladapo should be confirmed to the position of State Surgeon General.
The 6 remaining lawmakers, all members of the Republican Party, voted unanimously to confirm Ladapo, whose nomination will now move to the Ethics and Elections Committee and ultimately to the full Senate.
The Democrats, comprised of Sen. Lauren Book, Sen. Shevrin Jones, Sen. Janet Cruz, and Sen. Bobby Powell, questioned Ladapo for over an hour on his past experience, belief in vaccines and mask efficacies, and his public salary, among other topics.
Cruz and Book criticized Ladapo throughout the questioning for what they referred to as “arrogance and polite avoidance,” ultimately citing Ladapo’s alleged avoidance in answering their questions as the basis of their choice to abstain.
“We have an extreme amount of respect for this process, the chair, and this Senate,” said Book. “However, we don’t feel that we’re getting any answers and we know there is a long agenda today with a lot of bills and so, the Florida Senate Democrats in this committee now are going to abstain, walk out, and come back when we have more business to attend to.”
Following the meeting, Ladapo described the protest as unfortunate. “I certainly wish them well. I have no ill will towards them and I hope we can work together on issues of public health in relevance to Floridians.”
Democrats have been fiercely critical of Ladapo since his nomination as Surgeon General in September by Governor Ron DeSantis, focusing on his adjusted state policies for COVID-19 handlings.
The criticism was evident in the questioning portion of Wednesday’s hearing as the lawmakers demanded an explanation for his highly publicized meeting with Sen. Tina Polsky that he refused to wear a mask for.
‼️BREAKING‼️ Democratic Senators abstain and walk out from this sham of a confirmation hearing. Senate Democrats know Floridians deserve better than a doctor of disinformation as the top public health official of the state. pic.twitter.com/sSgmoufDkk
— Florida Senate Democrats (@FLSenateDems) January 26, 2022
Concurrent with Ladapo’s hearing, the Florida Senate Democrats took to Twitter to question his ability to serve his position.
“[Ladapo] has spent the last hour giving us the runaround and it just keeps getting worse. He can’t answer basic questions about his qualifications, public health concerns, vaccines, etc. Is this the best candidate Florida has to offer as the top public health official?”
Meanwhile, Florida Republicans were critical of the Democrats’ walkout.
“If Florida Democrats were committed to fighting COVID, they would be asking Joe Biden about his abrupt monoclonal reversal,” said RNC Spokeswoman Julia Friedland. “Instead, they opt for childish displays that only reinforce their commitment to playing politics with COVID.”