Wednesday was the first time in nearly two years that administration health officials were called to testify in the House about the COVID-19 pandemic. The new GOP majority made it clear they wouldn’t wait that long again.
“The CDC does not need more authority,” House Energy and Commerce Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) told Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It needs robust oversight.”
The CDC “has always operated without a congressional authorization and that is going to change,” McMorris Rodgers said.
Aside from Walensky, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf and Lawrence Tabak, acting director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) faced questions ranging from the effectiveness of mask and vaccine mandates to concerns over funding of controversial “gain of function” research, which makes pathogens more dangerous in order to find new cures.
Republicans have relaunched an investigation into the pandemic origins and are demanding documents from NIH.
Notably missing from the panel was Anthony Fauci, the former longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who retired at the end of last year. House Republicans have vowed to bring him in to testify and answer questions about the origins of the coronavirus and his agency’s role in giving funding to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China.
In his absence, Tabak and the NIH got the brunt of lawmakers’ ire.
In January, a Heath and Human Services Office of Inspector General report found the NIH didn’t effectively monitor or take timely action to address problems with past grants.
“For the past two years, we’ve pressed for answers about what kind of research you’re funding with taxpayer dollars and what sort of oversight you’re doing to ensure funds are not being misspent. Your cooperation has been abysmal,” McMorris Rodgers said.