WASHINGTON, D.C. – Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Health Republican Leader Dr. Michael Burgess (R-TX) detailed in a letter how Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) has failed to follow committee procedures, from not notifying Republicans on the committee of the hearing before it was announced on Twitter, to failing to follow the committee’s processes and precedents in preparing for the hearing to hear Dr. Bright’s testimony.
After learning about the hearing via press reports on social media, Burgess and staff have sought clarity. 48 hours ahead of the hearing, many critical process and logistics questions remain unanswered. E&C Republicans did not hear from their counterparts to discuss the structure of the hearing until Monday. This late discussion effectively limits the ability to prepare and practically prohibits Republicans on the committee from finding an available witness.
“As former Chairman of the Health Subcommittee, I am aware of the procedures that are in place for calling a hearing, and I am frustrated by your lack of respect for how our Committee conducts its business. When I was Chairman, even when there were strong disagreements with the Minority, we ensured that the Minority had the opportunity to engage in staff level witness calls and typically provided at least ten days’ notice for a hearing. I certainly never sent witness invitations without informing my counterparts or noticed a hearing via tweet,” Burgess wrote.
Burgess expressed that Dr. Bright and every whistleblower should be heard but questioned the timing of this hearing. Eshoo announced her intention to hold this hearing in the press before the whistleblower complaint became public and formalized the hearing notice shortly after the redacted report was made publicly available. There are processes for whistleblower complaints– including the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) – where Dr. Bright’s case is officially being investigated in an in-depth and nonpartisan manner. The investigation has only recently started, and this hearing was noticed before the OSC had even made their recommendation Dr. Bright be reinstated while their investigation continues.
“As is clear from the timeline, we are at the very beginning of this process. To our knowledge, your office has not engaged in an investigation of the matter at hand. Moreover, the precedent and expertise for whistleblower matters at the Committee lies with the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, not the Subcommittee on Health,” Burgess continued.
However, Burgess expressed optimism that the committee can do bipartisan work to help the American people during these challenging times. The committee has jurisdiction in the health sector and federal agencies responding to this pandemic. Burgess has recommended bipartisan issues in letters to Eshoo that the Health Subcommittee should examine now to make a positive impact on response efforts.
“Despite the partisan manner in which this hearing has been called, I do believe that there are numerous priorities that we should be working on together in the face of this pandemic. If you are going to require Members to travel back to Washington, D.C. from across the nation while the House is not in session, we should take advantage of the opportunity to conduct other hearings on our country’s response to COVID-19,” wrote Burgess.
In the letter, Burgess asked Eshoo a number of questions about the upcoming hearing, including questions about how to protect the health of Committee members, staff, and press.
CLICK HERE to read the letter.