At Select Subcommittee Hearing, Democrats Expose Republicans’ Baseless Allegations of Obstruction as Political Theater 

Jan 31, 2024
Press Release
Select Subcommittee Democrats Rebuke Republicans' Floundering Investigations, Call for Forward-Looking Policies to Promote Public Health

Washington, D.C. (January 31, 2024)—Today, Rep. Raul Ruiz, M.D., Ranking Member of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, led Select Subcommittee Democrats in exposing Republicans’ allegations of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) stonewalling as political theater by highlighting the Biden Administration’s responsiveness to the Majority and underscoring the failed results of Republicans’ partisan probes thus far.  

“This hearing is little more than a distraction from the fact that the Republican Majority has failed to accomplish anything to improve the lives of the American people and has chosen politically motivated probes over advancing constructive policies that promote our nation’s public health and pandemic preparedness,” said Ranking Member Ruiz in his opening statement.  

Today’s hearing included testimony from The Honorable Melanie Egorin, Ph.D., Assistant Secretary for Legislation at HHS.  

Select Subcommittee Democrats disproved Republicans’ allegations of “stonewalling,” by demonstrating how HHS has engaged with the Select Subcommittee in good faith, consistently providing documents responsive to Republicans’ requests and making Department officials available for more than 80 hours of transcribed interviews.

  • In response to questions from Ranking Member Ruiz about HHS’ responsiveness to the Select Subcommittee, Assistant Secretary Egorin said: “During the 118th Congress, we have made 35 productions—that’s one approximately every 10 days for a total of over 10,000 pages.”

  • Congresswoman Deborah Ross said: “I’d also like to discuss the lengths you have gone to in providing transparency into the Department’s document collection process. As you know, specific details regarding the internal processes and search parameters for document collections generally implicate separation of powers concerns….As such, they are not typically provided to Congress in order to prevent a chilling effect on Executive Branch internal deliberations. However, on November 9, HHS sent a letter to the Select Subcommittee containing comprehensive information about the collection processes for nearly twenty of its prior productions—including search terms and custodians.” 

  • Congresswoman Debbie Dingell refuted Republicans’ claims that the Department has blocked testimony about a federally funded grant: “The facts are that we’ve heard nearly 80 hours of voluntary testimony from eleven current or former [HHS] officials, all who testified about the EcoHealth Alliance grant reinstatement, to the extent they had knowledge about it. We’ve interviewed the program officer responsible for overseeing the grant, interviewed the two senior-level officials responsible for reinstating the grant, and we were briefed by two senior-level officials about the grant’s reinstatement, months before conducting the transcribed interviews.”

Select Subcommittee Democrats called out Republicans for using today’s hearing to distract from their Majority’s failures to accomplish anything for the American people by choosing politically motivated probes over advancing policies that improve people’s lives. 

  • Congresswoman Jill Tokuda said: “Under the guise of ‘investigating’ COVID-19’s origins, this Select Subcommittee has squandered value time and taxpayer dollars into probes simply for the purpose of scoring political points. And despite all of the time and resources they’ve wasted on their inquiry, the question for me is what do they have to show for it? In fact, the only thing that they’ve achieved is further politicizing the greatest public health crisis of our time by pointing figures at public health officials like yourself and sowing distrust in our nation’s Intelligence Community.”

  • Congressman Robert Garcia said: “We’ve been at this now for almost an entire year now with very little to show for it. Which is why we’re sitting here arguing back and forth about whether or not HHS staff has been responsive enough to requests for information. And Mr. Chairman, I’d like to note that this is the epitome of a hearing that could have been an email.”

  • Ranking Member Ruiz said: “Six months ago, I sent a letter expressing my concern about the direction we were headed in. And now as we sit here today, we have pandemic prevention and preparedness programs expiring under PAHPA, we have a debilitating distrust in our nation’s public health systems…we have childhood vaccination rates at an all-time low, and at the very same time, we have a Majority in the House trying to make extreme cuts to vital public health programs at the very time we need them most.”

Select Subcommittee Democrats called for a renewed focus on forward-looking solutions that promote the nation’s public health rather than Republicans’ failed political probes, extreme budget cuts, and flagrant attempts to undermine health care access for millions of Americans.  

  • Congressman Garcia said: “If House Republicans weren’t so desperate to find a shred of evidence for their members’ unhinged conspiracies, they could be using this time and resources to save lives and prevent the next pandemic. But the Majority is not interested in any of that. They’re only interested in forcing their extreme ideology on the American people—whether it’s kicking low-income families off their health insurance or gutting the right to abortion care across the country.”

  • Congresswoman Debbie Dingell said: “Just last week, President Biden announced that a record-breaking 21.3 million Americans have enrolled in health care coverage through the Affordable Care [Act] marketplaces… Unfortunately, we know that there are some who are all too eager to repeal these health care plans without a plan to keep costs low and coverage high for millions of people who rely on the marketplace for coverage.”

  • Congressman Kweisi Mfume said: “I do question the commitment of some members of this body, the United States Congress, that have proposed a $7.6 billion decrease in funding for the Centers for Disease Control in the upcoming appropriations package and a $3.6 billion cut in strategic preparedness, even though we’re talking about being prepared strategically for another pandemic.”

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118th Congress