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Fauci's absence from hearing draws bipartisan rebuke from House lawmakers

A key House panel held a hearing Wednesday on the country's response to the coronavirus pandemic but had to do so without testimony from any members of the Trump administration. 

The absences of key figures in the battle against COVID-19 — including Anthony FauciAnthony FauciKamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Overnight Health Care: Biden team to begin getting COVID briefings | Fauci says he would 'absolutely' serve on Biden's COVID task force | Major glove factories close after thousands test positive for COVID-19 Fauci says he would 'absolutely' serve on a Biden coronavirus task force MORE, the administration's top infectious diseases expert — prompted frustration from members of both parties.

“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 report says lawmakers could securely cast remote votes amid pandemic Next Congress expected to have record diversity Native Americans elected to Congress in record numbers this year MORE (Okla.), the top Republican on the House Appropriations labor and health subcommittee, said during the hearing. 

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“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.” 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit MORE blocked Fauci, a leading member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, from testifying, telling reporters Tuesday the “House is a bunch of Trump haters."

Cole argued that the committee is not “hyperpartisan” and has a record of bipartisan accomplishments. 

Rep. Rosa DeLauroRosa Luisa DeLauroOVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats push Biden to pick Haaland as next Interior secretary | Trump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing | Wasserman Schultz pitches climate plan in race to chair Appropriations Wasserman Schultz pitches climate plan in race to chair Appropriations DeLauro racks up labor endorsements for Appropriations gavel MORE (D-Conn.), the chairwoman of the subcommittee, went further in her criticism and said Trump’s decision leaves no doubt he is “frightened by oversight.” 

“I am angry that the White House mismanaged America’s reaction to the pandemic, and the president has done everything he could to avoid accountability,” DeLauro said, noting Fauci has testified hundreds of times before Congress while working under both Democratic and Republican presidents. 

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Trump told reporters Fauci will testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee next week. 

Instead, members of the subcommittee heard from two public health experts who aren't working directly with the administration on the coronavirus response: Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Caitlin Rivers, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 

Both Frieden and Rivers said the U.S. needs to increase COVID-19 testing and contact tracing before the country can safely reopen. 

The Trump administration has faced criticism for not being more involved with states' efforts to scale up testing and contact tracing. 

"I do think the federal government should play a role in obtaining testing supplies for the states," Rivers said. 

"What we don't want is a situation where all 50 states have to devise their own testing strategies and are bidding against each other." 

Updated at 1:12 pm.