Cummings accuses Oversight Republicans of obstructing drug price probe

Cummings accuses Oversight Republicans of obstructing drug price probe
© Greg Nash

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsMaryland postpones primary over coronavirus fears Maryland governor: 'Simply not enough supplies' on hand to tackle coronavirus Meadows joins White House facing reelection challenges MORE (D-Md.) on Wednesday accused ranking member Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanJustice IG pours fuel on looming fight over FISA court The relief bill and public broadcasting: A missed opportunity Meadows joins White House in crisis mode MORE (R-Ohio) of deliberately trying to undermine the committee’s investigation into rising drug prices.

In a letter sent Wednesday, Cummings condemned what he claimed were Jordan’s efforts to “actively obstruct” the committee’s investigation into prescription drug pricing.

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“You personally may have no interest in bringing down drug prices for your constituents, you honestly may believe it is more important to protect drug company profits and stock prices than the budgets of American families, and you may even disagree with President TrumpDonald John TrumpMilitary personnel to handle coronavirus patients at facilities in NYC, New Orleans and Dallas Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort has total of 20 patients: report Fauci says that all states should have stay-at-home orders MORE that drug companies are ‘getting away with murder,’ but your efforts to interfere with this investigation represent a new low for a Member of this Committee,” Cummings wrote.

Cummings was responding to letters sent by Jordan and Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsMeadows sets up coronavirus hotline for members of Congress The Hill's 12:30 Report: McConnell, Pelosi at odds over next relief bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump blends upbeat virus info and high US death forecast MORE (R-N.C.) earlier this month, warning a dozen different drug company executives that Cummings was conducting a partisan investigation, essentially telling them not to participate.

“We hope to persuade Chairman Cummings to work with us on this matter but, in the interim, we felt that it was prudent to raise these issues with you directly,” Jordan and Meadows wrote to the industry executives.

The response from Cummings marks an escalation in his ongoing political battle with Jordan over the committee’s handling of sensitive information.

Jordan and Meadows in their letters indicated they were worried Cummings might decide to publicly release proprietary business information, even though it could harm the company's competitiveness.

Their letters to the drug companies specifically cited what they called Cummings’s unilateral decision to release excerpts of closed-door testimony from Tricia Newbold, a White House whistleblower who told the committee about alleged failures in the current security clearance process.

Cummings said the committee has been working for weeks on a protocol to protect sensitive documents obtained during an investigation, but Jordan has been blocking it.

“After spending weeks trying to consult with you and work with your staff on a bipartisan basis, it is difficult to view the claim in your letters” about wanting to work collaboratively “as anything but hypocritical,” Cummings wrote.

Cummings launched a sweeping investigation into the prescription drug industry’s pricing practices in January. He said companies have been cooperating with the review.

"It is one thing to have an honest disagreement about the Committee’s policy or approach — which would command respect — but it is quite another to actively obstruct an investigation in the service of placing corporate interests over those of the American people,” Cummings wrote.

Jordan’s letter accused Cummings of only being interested in bringing down drug company’s stock prices. Cummings said Jordan ignored his full comments about the committee’s impact, which he said were about saving taxpayers money.

In a statement to The Hill Wednesday, a spokesperson for Jordan said that "hurting private businesses will cost taxpayers more money" and that if Cummings really wants to save taxpayers money, "he should stop partisan investigations into the President, and actually start legislating."