Washington, D.C. – Today, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee announced it will hold a hearing to hear from former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), Dr. Rick Bright, on his recently filed whistleblower complaint. The 89-page filing was made public days ago.
All whistleblowers deserve to be heard, and Congress created the Office of Special Counsel and other mechanisms to investigate such allegations of wrongdoing. We should let that process work, and we must not forget that a full investigation requires due process not only for a whistleblower, but for all parties involved.
We know Speaker Pelosi has pushed this hearing, deferring to Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Eshoo when asked about Dr. Bright, but the consolidated timing of the process makes clear this is more about attacking the Trump administration than investigating Dr. Bright’s allegations.
In the middle of a pandemic, we believe the Energy and Commerce Committee should be united and fully focused on the needs of the American people during this difficult time.
Here are five pressing – and bipartisan – issues we could be working on next week:
- Reforming the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) – We’ve seen how this pandemic has stretched our SNS thin. Through committee oversight, we’ve discovered efficiencies we could bring to the SNS, and there are several bipartisan bills that would help streamline the response for COVID-19 and future public health emergencies. This is not part of next week’s hearing.
- Provider Relief & Input from those on the Front Lines – The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided $100 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund to help providers and health care entities that are responding to COVID-19, and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act included an additional $75 billion. We could use this time to hear from providers on the front lines about what they have received, what they still need and recommendations they have for the federal government moving forward.
- COVID-19 Testing & the Status of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – There is broad, bipartisan support for expanding testing, and this issue continues to be of interest to the American people and the committee. We must also continue oversight of the efforts to procure and distribute sufficient amounts of PPE to our health care workers and front-line responders. As we expand testing across the country and restart elective surgeries, the need for PPE will continue to grow, though neither of these items are on next week’s agenda.
- Mental Health – We know this pandemic has caused great stress to every American. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but there is no hearing on the books to examine the mental health impacts of COVID-19 resources spearheaded by E&C and whether or not they are providing relief to the American people at this time. Nor is there a hearing scheduled to review current metrics and statistical analysis related to COVID-19 that are necessary to properly inform policymakers.
- Gaps in Outcomes and Access – COVID-19 has hit communities of color the hardest. Instead of further examining why this is and what can be done to address these concerning reports, Democrats on the committee are moving forward with a partisan hearing.
There’s no shortage of work to be done but, as you can see by the upcoming Energy and Commerce Committee schedule, it would seem Republicans on the committee and the Democrats who set the schedule have different priorities.