White House accuses Democrats of not acting 'in good faith' on Fauci testimony

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday defended the decision to prevent Anthony FauciAnthony FauciAustralia reviewing reopening plans after reporting first omicron cases Biden to provide update Monday on US response to omicron variant Canada reports North America's first cases of omicron COVID-19 variant MORE from appearing before a House panel and accused House Democrats of not acting “in good faith.”

Questioned about the decision at an afternoon briefing, McEnany said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyTwo women could lead a powerful Senate spending panel for first time in history Lobbying world Progressives fight for leverage amid ever-slimming majority MORE (D-N.Y.) did not provide a specific subject matter or purpose for the hearing in correspondence with White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsSunday shows - Spotlight shifts to omicron variant Schiff: Jan. 6 panel decision on charges for Meadows could come this week Republicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves MORE.

“The House, however, and specifically Chairwoman Nita Lowey’s committee, did not act in good faith,” McEnany asserted. “Those details were never received, and instead we got a press release. So that’s what we call a publicity stunt.”

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McEnany’s remarks came a day after President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer defense secretary Esper sues Pentagon in memoir dispute Biden celebrates start of Hanukkah Fauci says lies, threats are 'noise' MORE told reporters that the White House would prevent Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert, from appearing before the Democratic-controlled House because he believes it is full of “Trump haters.”

Evan Hollander, a committee spokesman, said Trump "admitted" to blocking the top expert from testifying for political reasons. The spokesman dismissed any other explanation as "spin."

“You don’t have to be a Nobel Prize winner to understand why the House committee that funds health care programs wanted Dr. Fauci to appear at a hearing on coronavirus response,” Hollander said in an emailed statement.

“President Trump already admitted that he blocked Dr. Fauci from testifying for political reasons, and any other comment from the White House is just spin,” he added.

Fauci's absence from the hearing Wednesday drew bipartisan rebuke, with lawmakers voicing their frustration with the decision.

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“I want the record to show I joined the chairman urging that Dr. Fauci be allowed to testify here,” Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeHouse passes giant social policy and climate measure Congress needs to act on the social determinants of health Why Congress must investigate crimes and abuses at Indian boarding schools MORE (Okla.), the top Republican on the House Appropriations labor and health subcommittee, said during the hearing. 

“I think it would have been good testimony, useful to this committee and useful to this country. Frankly, I think going forward, this subcommittee, more than any other, is going to need administration input, expert input, as we make the important decisions in front of us,” he added. 

McEnany was asked Wednesday how the president’s remarks the previous day were consistent with oversight and transparency. The press secretary noted that Fauci would testify before a GOP-led Senate committee later this month and would field questions from both Democrats and Republicans during that appearance.

“Dr. Fauci will be speaking in a week and a half before the Senate, so the notion that he is being blocked is just farcical,” McEnany said.

“The House needs to act in good faith,” she said later. “We don’t have time in the middle of a pandemic for publicity stunts.”

The White House signaled last week it would prevent Fauci from testifying before the House panel, saying that it would be "counterproductive" to have officials involved in efforts to address the coronavirus pandemic testify at congressional hearings at this time but that it would work with Congress to make the officials available at a later date.

The Trump administration has since unveiled new guidance barring members of the coronavirus task force from granting invitations to appear before congressional panels during the month of May unless Meadows signs off. Administration officials argued that agencies involved in the federal response needed to dedicate their resources toward combating the coronavirus.