CDC director to miss fourth hearing because of potential ethics issues

CDC director to miss fourth hearing because of potential ethics issues
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The director of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has had to cancel another appearance before Congress because of ethics issues, a committee aide told The Hill. 

This is the fourth time that CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald has been unable to testify because of potential conflicts of interest. Fitzgerald was appointed to the position in July.

Fitzgerald was originally slated to testify Wednesday in front of the Senate's health committee on public health threats, but now is no longer scheduled to appear.

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Fitzgerald, a former Georgia health official, has divested from many stock holdings since taking the CDC job. But because she's been unable to divest from some holdings due to legal and contractual obligations, she's had to recuse herself from some CDC duties, including testifying in front of Congress. 

Fitzgerald's absence has frustrated Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayGOP leader criticizes Republican senators for not showing up to work Senate Dems press Sessions for records on racial discrimination complaints Dem senators introduce resolution calling on Trump to stop attacking the press MORE (Wash.), the ranking Democratic member of the committee. 

The remaining investments have also hindered Fitzgerald's ability to work on some issues related to cancer and the opioid crisis, Murray said in a letter to Fitzgerald last month. 

"On at least three occasions since your appointment in July, CDC has sent your deputies to testify at Congressional hearings, alongside the heads of other government agencies, which explored the federal response to the opioid crisis," Murray wrote in the letter. 

"At a time when the need for a comprehensive and ongoing response from the federal government is clear, Congress must be able to hold federal agencies accountable for their role in the response to the opioid crisis, which includes the head of the agency participating in relevant Congressional hearings."

The CDC said that another official, Dr. Stephen Redd, Director of the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, will testify in Fitzgerald's place before the Senate HELP Committee. 

"Dr. Fitzgerald is actively working to address recusal obligations as soon as possible related to two financial holdings that, as noted in her ethics agreement, have complex transfer restrictions. Dr. Fitzgerald was ready and prepared to testify, but she has deferred to the committee’s request to have one single CDC expert testify at the hearing regarding CDC’s preparedness and response efforts," the CDC said.

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services Robert Kadlec will testify at the hearing Wednesday. 

Updated: 7:21 p.m.