Oversight & Investigations Updates

Jan 25, 2023

Chairs Rodgers and Griffith Announces First Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee Hearing

Members Will Discuss Recent Report on Biological Outbreak Investigations Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and upcoming Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA) today announced the first hearing of the 118th Congress in the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. It will focus on a report by the Government Accountability Office examining the challenges of investigating the origins of infectious disease pandemics and biological outbreaks as well as recommendations for improvement in the future.  “With more than a million American lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, uncovering the origins of future pandemics is the public health question of our lifetime. For the past two years, Energy and Committee Republicans have been pursuing an in-depth investigation into the early days of SARS-CoV-2 with an emphasis on the virus’ origins. As the committee begins to consider legislation to prevent future pandemics and biological outbreaks, it’s crucial that we understand what technologies and capacities we need to quickly determine an outbreak’s origins.”  Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Hearing Entitled: “Challenges and Opportunities to Investigating the Origins of Pandemics and Other Biological Events.”   WHAT : A hearing to discuss how to develop more capabilities for investigating the origins of pandemics and other biological events.  DATE : Wednesday, February 1, 2023  TIME : 2:00 PM ET  LOCATION : 2123 Rayburn House Office Building  WITNESSES : Witnesses will be announced and are by invitation only.     This notice is at the direction of the Chair. The hearing will be open to the public and press, and will be livestreamed online at . If you have any questions concerning the hearing, please contact Lauren Eriksen with the Committee staff at .     

E&C Republicans to NIH: Turn Over Previously Requested Information Ahead of New Congress

NIH’s Lack of Transparency at Odds with Its Stated Mission  Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Republican Leader Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Republican Leader Morgan Griffith (R-VA) today sent a letter to National Institutes of Health (NIH) Senior Official Lawrence Tabak following up on 12 unanswered or insufficiently addressed letters that requested information and were sent between March 12, 2021 and October 31, 2022. The letter also serves as a formal notice for NIH to preserve all records and materials related to the topics in the previous letters. Key Excerpt:  “We write to urge the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to respond to our longstanding requests to provide us information related to the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, including matters related to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ (NIAID) grant to EcoHealth Alliance and subgrant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), and other subjects. Some of these requests have been outstanding for more than a year. NIH’s persistent lack of transparency with members of its authorizing committee of jurisdiction is troubling. According to its mission statement, a goal of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is ‘to exemplify […] the highest level of scientific integrity and public accountability.’ However, given the overall lack of adequate responsiveness to our oversight letters, the NIH is falling short of the goal set forth in its mission statement.” […] “Furthermore, this letter serves as a formal request to preserve all existing and future records and materials in your agency’s possession relating to the topics addressed in this letter. You should construe this preservation notice as an instruction to take all reasonable steps to prevent the destruction or alteration, whether intentionally or negligently, of all documents, communications, and other information, including electronic information and metadata, that are or may be responsive to this congressional inquiry. This instruction includes all electronic messages sent using official and personal accounts or devices, including records created using text messages, phone-based message applications, or encryption software.” CLICK HERE  to read the full November 30, 2022, letter to Dr. Tabak.   Full copies of the 12 above mentioned letters are available below: March 18, 2021, Letter to Dr. Francis Collins On March 18, 2021, the Republican Leaders sent an eleven-page letter, based on what was known at that time, requesting information related to where SARS CoV-2 originated and how NIH grant dollars at the WIV were used. While documents released in response to Freedom of Information Act requests suggest that NIH had prepared a draft written response, NIH never sent a written response to our questions. June 10, 2021, Letter to Dr. Francis Collins On June 10, 2021, Committee members wrote to strongly express support for a “comprehensive investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the possibility of an accidental laboratory leak.” To date, NIH has not provided a written response. July 21, 2021, Letter to Dr. Francis Collins On July 21, 2021, Committee Leaders sent another letter reiterating our request for information to our March 2021 letter, which NIH failed to provide written, substantive responses to. NIH has not provided a written response to the specific questions outlined in the July 2021 letter. August 24, 2021, Letter to Dr. Francis Collins   Republican Leaders submitted an August 2021 letter again requesting information about NIAID’s coronavirus grant to EcoHealth Alliance. To date, NIH has not provided a written response. October 27, 2021, Letter to Dr. Francis Collins Based on documents the Department of Health and Human Services arranged for the Committee to review in camera, Republican Leaders highlighted in an October 27, 2021, letter our concerns about NIH’s oversight of EcoHealth Alliance’s research proposal that purported it was not conducting gain-of-function research. NIH has not submitted a written response to this letter. February 14, 2022, Letter to Dr. Francis Collins On February 14, 2022, we sent a letter about concerns that Dr. Collins, while Director of NIH, may have taken steps to actively suppress scientific discussion that COVID-19 could have originated from a research-related incident, not just from natural transmission. A similar letter was also sent to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the NIAID. To date, neither NIH nor NIAID have not sent any written responses to these letters. February 24, 2022, Letter to Dr. Lawrence A. Tabak On February 24, 2022, Republican Leaders raised concerns that NIH failed to effectively enforce its policies and regulations over EcoHealth Alliance. To date, NIH has not sent a written response. April 25, 2022, Letter to Dr. Lawrence A. Tabak On April 25, 2022, Republican Leaders wrote a letter raising concerns that EcoHealth Alliance was potentially omitting key information in research allegedly conducted at WIV in order to obtain a renewal of federal grant funding. While NIH has provided some information in a bipartisan briefing, many questions remain unanswered. NIH has not provided a written response to this letter. July 21, 2022, Letter to Dr. Lawrence A. Tabak   Although required by the NIH Reform Act of 2006, NIH has failed to convene the Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB) since 2015. Republican Leaders wrote asking why this Board, intended to make NIH more efficient and effective, inexplicably stopped convening seven years ago. To date, NIH has not provided a written response. August 11, 2022, Letter to Dr. Lawrence A. Tabak   As highlighted in an August 11, 2022, letter, Republican Leaders received inadequate responses in 2021 as to why NIH failed to remove an alleged sexual perpetrator disciplined in three states from co-chairing an NIH steering committee, even after receiving complaints from female scientists alleging the misconduct. To date, NIH has not provided a written response. October 24, 2022, Letter to Dr. Lawrence A. Tabak   Last month Republican Leaders sent NIH a letter raising concerns about how NIH could contemplate funding a new EcoHealth Alliance grant considering this organization’s past noncompliance with regulatory requirements and grant terms. To date, they have not received a written response from NIH to this letter. October 31, 2022, Letter to Dr. Lawrence A. Tabak Last month Republican Leaders sent a letter requesting information related to a NIAID intramural experiment that would enhance the more dangerous version of the monkeypox virus by making the disease about 1000 percent more lethal in mice. To date, they have not received a response.

Nov 17, 2022
In the News

Media Wrap-Up: Leader Rodgers’ E&C Health Priorities

Energy and Commerce Republicans are ready to hit the ground running next Congress. Don’t miss the below key coverage outlining top priorities for 2023, including combatting the fentanyl crisis, returning to pre-pandemic life, investigating the origins of COVID-19, and holding the Biden administration accountable for its many failures. Combatting the Fentanyl Crisis Republicans are aiming to conduct investigations into the Biden administration’s pandemic spending, the origins of the coronavirus, and the tech industry’s role in the fentanyl crisis if they take control of the House and Senate next week. […] GOP leaders slotted to succeed their Democratic colleagues on key health committees have indicated they plan to scrutinize Big Tech to do more to crack down on illegal fentanyl sales on their platforms and oversee how the Department of Health and Human Services will implement new drug pricing policies under Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act, among other items. CLICK HERE  to read the full article in the  Washington Examiner . Illicit fentanyl is surging across our southern border and killing more people than ever. This drug is so dangerous and potent that just a few milligrams, which can fit in the ear of Lincoln on a penny, can be lethal. […] First and foremost, we need to secure the border. A Biden administration official with the Office of National Drug Control Policy confirmed to the Energy and Commerce Committee that the southern border is primarily how these substances are getting into America. With help from Chinese chemical companies, Mexican drug cartels are trafficking enough illicit fentanyl into the United States to kill every American many times over. A secure border is our strongest defense to crack down on Chinese illicit fentanyl, stop the cartels, and keep these weapon-grade poisons off our streets. In addition, we need to make sure law enforcement have permanent tools to seize fentanyl-related substances, which are analogues of fentanyl that can be even more dangerous and deadly. […] To make sure fentanyl-related substances don’t become street legal, Republicans are leading on the Halt All Lethal Trafficking of Fentanyl Act. This will give law enforcement the permanent tools they need to seize these poisons and keep our communities safe. CLICK HERE  to watch the full interview. Returning to Normal President Biden  declared in September  that the COVID-19 pandemic was “over.” If Republicans win control of Congress, they’ll demand U.S. policy reflects that conclusion. Why it matters:  The pandemic ushered in revolutionary changes to U.S. health and economic policy. While many pandemic-era restrictions have already been rolled back, a full reversion to pre-COVID governance would have profound consequences for American life. In particular, the ongoing public health emergency and the national emergency declaration give the executive branch sweeping powers in critical areas of public policy, including health care, student loans and border security. […] Energy & Commerce:  A GOP committee aide told Axios that returning to “normal” is a priority, namely by ending the public health emergency, stopping unnecessary pandemic spending, and reversing any worker COVID mandates. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the top Republican on the committee, has repeatedly called for the Biden administration to provide a plan to unwind the public health emergency. The aide also said the panel’s COVID top oversight targets are the virus’ origins, policies around school shutdowns, and Democrats’ pandemic spending. CLICK HERE  to read more from  Axios . Health Care Cybersecurity Republican victories in Tuesday’s elections could benefit patients, businesses and health care providers who’ve liked pandemic-era rules that have made telehealth easier to use. Although telehealth is broadly bipartisan, Republicans are more fervent in their telehealth enthusiasm than their Democratic counterparts, Ben reports. […] Here are some other GOP priorities:  Cybersecurity:  The GOP is signaling that it will focus on legislation to stop hackers who’ve besieged U.S. health care organizations. Republicans introduced several cybersecurity bills just ahead of the elections, including one from House Energy and Commerce ranking member Brett Guthrie of Kentucky aimed at bolstering the Department of Health and Human Services’ defenses. The goal is bipartisan. This month, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) released a cybersecurity report calling for stronger leadership from HHS. AI/Innovation:  House Republicans’ Healthy Future Task Force has targeted expanding Medicare breakthrough-device coverage as a priority, as well as modernizing clinical trials and using artificial intelligence to root out fraud. Tech oversight:  Republicans have pushed tech companies, including Snapchat and TikTok, to take more action to prevent fentanyl sales on their platforms. CLICK HERE  to read more from  Politico Pulse . Uncovering the Origins of COVID-19 Rep Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) who is poised to ascend to the Energy and Commerce Committee chairmanship, said over the summer: ‘There are so many questions that need to be answered about the government’s response to Covid-19.  ‘How the pandemic started, that’s probably the most important public health question that needs to be answered,’ she said.  Gaining that subpoena power would give Republicans the green light to compel testimony and obtain documents, likely sparking fierce political showdowns in Congressional hearings and partisan bickering behind the scenes.  CLICK HERE  to read more from Daily Mail. Holding the Biden Administration Accountable Congressional Republicans are floating sweeping investigations into the Biden administration’s COVID-19 spending and are looking to tighten the purse strings on agency funding should they hold majorities after next week’s midterms.   Republicans are frustrated with what they see as the administration’s unaccountable coronavirus spending and are looking to shine a spotlight on where the trillions of dollars doled out by the White House have gone.  CLICK HERE  to read more from The Hill. The  House Energy and Commerce Committee,  which has sweeping jurisdiction over health-related issues and could be led next year by Rep.  Cathy McMorris Rodgers  (R-Wash.). The panel’s GOP lawmakers will also continue probing the origins of the coronavirus, and have opened inquiries into biosafety practices overseen by federal agencies. Here’s what else the panel is planning to focus on, per a committee GOP aide: Biden administration covid policies, such as the impact of school-related policies on children. The increasing rate of deaths from fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid. Hearings regarding federal health agencies potentially related to the pandemic response and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Oversight into how the federal health department decides to  implement Democrats ’ new drug pricing policies. Transparency into how much hospitals are charging, an effort which has been bipartisan. CLICK HERE  to read more from the  Washington Post . Republican leaders of a House health panel are pushing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for answers on flaws in the agency’s initial response to the spread of monkeypox in the US. […] Republicans are focusing their oversight less on the White House’s relationship with scientific agencies like the CDC and more on public safety issues. Rodgers, Guthrie, and Griffith this week  wrote  to the National Institutes of Health asking about research into monkeypox that potentially involved making a version of the virus that was more lethal to mice. CLICK HERE  to read more from  Bloomberg Government .

E&C GOP to Walensky: CDC’s Faulty Monkeypox Diagnostic Information Puts Americans in Danger; Further Erodes Public Trust in Agency

Americans must be able to trust accuracy of viral tests during outbreaks  Washington, D.C.  — House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Republican Leader Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Republican Leader Morgan Griffith (R-VA) sent a letter to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky regarding faulty Monkeypox tests, which may have left Americans infected with the virus believing they were healthy and non-contagious:  “From the CDC’s fiasco in rolling out effective COVID-19 tests in early 2020, to the recent faulty Monkeypox test information, this further highlights another example of why Americans have lost trust in our public health agencies and their ability to keep individuals safe and contain outbreaks. If the Biden administration is serious about restoring trust, public health agencies must be transparent and accountable to the American people,” said Republican Leader Rodgers, Guthrie, and Griffith.  CLICK HERE  to read more on the letter and E&C Republicans’ oversight agenda. KEY EXCERPT : “We write to request information about the flawed CDC diagnostic testing procedures for monkeypox virus. This follows a similar CDC breakdown during the pandemic response when CDC distributed faulty and contaminated COVID-19 test kits in February 2020.”  The members asked for specific answers to the following questions by November 17, 2022:  Why were CDC’s published primers and probes specifically targeting Monkeypox unable to detect the virus in some cases?  Were the CDC’s published primers and probes based on currently circulating monkeypox strains?  How did the CDC become aware that its published primers and probes led to false negatives?  What action has CDC taken to correct this problem? Is CDC re-designing and reworking its published primers and probes?  Is CDC actively performing in silico analysis of this assay against the most current monkeypox sequence database?  If yes, did CDC observe any potential limitation with the assay to give a potential false negative result?  If yes, is CDC developing new signatures and assays to counter the limitations?  If yes, when will these new signatures and assays be available to the public health/laboratory community?  Has CDC thought about developing RT-PCR assays for multiple regions or loci to enhance sensitivity and eliminate false negative results? If not, why not?  Monkeypox virus has two clades. Clade 1 or Congo Basin clade monkeypox virus has about a 10 percent fatality rate in unvaccinated persons. Clade 2 or West African clade monkeypox virus (the version currently circulating in humans) is associated with less than one percent mortality.10 Does CDC have a monkeypox specific assay that detects both clade 1 and clade 2 viruses? If not, why not?  The non-variola orthopoxvirus assay cross-reacts with other viruses. Is this a concern to CDC? If not, why not?  CLICK HERE to read the full letter to Director Walensky. 

Nov 1, 2022
Letter - Health

E&C Republicans Question NIH Over Experiment Using More Lethal Monkeypox Virus Listed as Federal Select Agent

NIH must clearly demonstrate public benefit to justify risky research  Washington, D.C.  — House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Republican Leader Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Republican Leader Morgan Griffith (R-VA) today sent a letter to National Institutes of Health (NIH) Acting Director Lawrence Tabak requesting information related to a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) monkeypox virus enhancement, which has reportedly made the disease 1000 percent more lethal in mice. The more lethal monkeypox virus has about a 10 percent mortality rate in unvaccinated people. The less lethal monkeypox virus circulating in the U.S. has a mortality rate less than one percent. KEY EXCERPT: “It appears that the project is reasonably anticipated to yield a lab-generated monkeypox virus that is 1,000 times more lethal in mice than the monkeypox virus currently circulating in humans and that transmits as efficiently as the monkeypox virus currently circulating in humans. The risk-benefit ratio indicates potentially serious risks without clear civilian practical applications. Based on available information, this experiment would seem to involve risks reasonably anticipated to create, transfer, or use potential pandemic pathogens (PPPs) resulting from the enhancement of a pathogen’s transmissibility or virulence in humans (enhanced PPPs). Under the circumstances, we are interested in learning whether this experiment was reviewed under the HHS P3CO (Potential Pandemic Pathogens) framework used to review risky research proposals. We recently received a letter from HHS implicitly confirming that the HHS P3CO review committee has been inactive since 2019, without any indication that the Biden administration is reactivating this committee. (See attachment). Nevertheless, it is important to know whether NIAID itself conducted any internal review on this issue.” The members specifically asked for information as well as answers to below questions by November 14,2022: All proposals and progress reports discussing the clade 1 monkeypox virus experiment (clade 1 study). For NIH award 1ZIAAI000979, please provide a copy of the grant terms. When did the clade 1 experiment start? Is the experiment ongoing? If not, when did it stop? If ongoing, what is the status of the experiment? What review did this research undergo at NIH? Who reviewed the research proposal? What was the basis of the review decision? What are the risks from this research? What are the benefits from this research? What is the potential benefit to human health from this research? Is there an aim to find a treatment or vaccine? Any correspondence related to whether the clade 1 study should be referred to P3CO review. Was the clade 1 study referred for P3CO review? If not, why not? Was the clade 1 study referred to the Federal Select Agent Program for review? If not, why not? If so, was the clade 1 study further reviewed by the ISATTAC? Why must clade 1 genes be transferred to clade 2 genes? Why not delete the genes from Clade 1 to determine effects on virulence? A copy of the submission on the clade 1 study sent to the NIAID Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) or to an NIH IBC. CLICK HERE  to read the full letter to Acting Director Tabak.

Oct 31, 2022

Why Parents Have Lost Trust in the CDC

Americans, especially parents, have lost trust in our public health agencies like the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC). In many cases, it wasn’t a single event but a pattern of authoritarian government actions that did great harm our children.  Throughout the pandemic, the Biden administration has been caught:  Colluding  with the politically powerful teachers’ unions to keep schools closed to in-person learning at the grave cost of our children’s mental health and well-being  Urging  Big Tech to shut down free speech and silence anyone who disagreed with the liberal narrative on public health issues, such as the origins of the pandemic  Intentionally misinterpreting  and skewing data to keep government-imposed mask mandates in place on young children who are generally not at great risk of COVID-19   Imposing  one-size-fits-all vaccine mandates on nurses, servicemembers, and government employees, costing thousands of Americans their jobs and their livelihoods  Despite the CDC publicly acknowledging in August the need to rebuild trust with Americans, it continues to do just the opposite. Earlier this month, the CDC moved to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the schedule of recommended vaccines for children without being transparent about what data supports their decision. Without justifying why children, particularly under the age of five, need to regularly receive COVID-19 vaccines, this decision could undermine public confidence in other more critical vaccines, such as mumps or measles.  Recently, as Leader Rodgers  urged governors not to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for healthy children , she noted in a letter to her home state governor Jay Inslee that there is no clear consensus in the medical community that healthy children under the age of 11 should be given the COVID-19 vaccine. In fact,  Sweden decided it  against it, with their lead health agency stating, “we don’t see any clear benefit to vaccinating them.”  While the CDC’s recommendation isn’t itself a mandate, the reality is parents and doctors are raising the alarm that they’ve had enough of politicians using these “recommendations” to issue government-enforced mandates that have harmed children, set them back dramatically in school, and worsened the youth mental health crisis worse.  Here’s how one doctor put it, and he’s right.  “ Parents are frustrated with the CDC and its Covid-19 guidance.  And for very good reason. During the pandemic, many parents believed that CDC recommendations—on quarantine, for instance—resulted in local officials locking kids out of school for too long or unnecessarily, which resulted in devastating learning loss. But when those parents complained to the schools, education officials said they were simply following CDC recommendations.”  READ MORE  in Common Sense.   As E&C Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers said, “to give a child the COVID-19 vaccine is a decision that should be left to parents and their child’s doctor—not the government.”  If the CDC is serious about regaining the public trust, it must take full responsibility and reform the way it issues guidance by being more transparent about its rationale and the data underlying those decisions. Energy and Commerce Republicans will continue to demand answers, hold the CDC and Biden administration accountable for its failures, and stand for policies that help keep Americans safe while preserving their freedoms.  Don’t miss what E&C Republicans are saying:

Sep 28, 2022

E&C Republicans Press NIH and CDC Over Safety Gaps with Virus Hunting to Prevent Next Pandemic

Concerns Arise That Human Researchers’ Interactions with Bats in the Wild May Have Caused COVID-19 Pandemic Washington, D.C. —  House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Republican Leader Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Republican Leader Morgan Griffith (R-VA) are demanding the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide a briefing on gaps in safety standards for virus hunting and how policies can be improved to address these gaps. In a letter to NIH Acting Director Lawrence Tabak and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, the Republican members show the gaps in oversight of safety during virus-hunting in bat caves. For example, journalists have documented lapses in wearing protective gear by both EcoHealth Alliance and its sub-grantee, the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). A video even showed WIV researchers being bitten by bats. NIH’s grant to EcoHealth Alliance has been suspended since July 2020, spurred in part due to biosafety monitoring concerns. The NIH and CDC jointly publish the Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL) manual, the guidance for lab safety standards. KEY EXCERPT:  “Since 1984, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have issued editions of the overarching guidance document for the practice of biosafety in the U.S.—Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL)—to address the safe handling and containment of infectious microorganisms and hazardous biological materials. However, the BMBL and traditional biosafety practices have focused on laboratory settings.  We write to inquire about existing policies at the CDC and NIH on biosafety practices for virus hunting or field research (including through the BMBL) and for the agencies to discuss addressing any gaps in policies and best practices with committee staff. Safety concerns with virus-hunting raised in recent reports and articles and from our oversight into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic suggest the need for enhanced training and oversight of biosafety practices in the field.” […] “Even if it is not connected to the origins of the pandemic, the risks are apparent and biosafety practices need to be strengthened as our oversight examines the risks and benefits of virus-hunting research to prevent pandemics.” The members ask the NIH and CDC to give Energy and Commerce Committee staff a briefing on biosafety guidelines for collecting and sampling viruses from animals in the wild. Currently, the BMBL doesn’t include field research, which has the members and experts with concerns that there’s currently a lack of biosafety standards over virus hunting practices that have the potential to start a pandemic. The request for a staff briefing arises from EcoHealth Alliance’s virus hunting in bat caves and its partnership with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). The members are investigating the possibility that the virus could have originated from bats in unsafe virus-hunting practices. KEY EXCERPT:  “Biosafety concerns over virus hunting have been elevated by the scrutiny over the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the suspicions about the possible role of the EcoHealth – WIV partnership. Both of these entities have a history of not always following safety precautions for virus hunting or in the laboratory. “In its grant proposal to the NIAID, EcoHealth acknowledged the high risks and need for specific safety requirements in its virus-hunting: “‘…Fieldwork involves the highest risk for exposure to SARS or other CoVs, while working in caves with high bat density overhead and the potential for fecal dust to be inhaled. There is also some risk of exposure to pathogens or physical injury while handling bats, civets, rodents or other animals, their blood samples or their excreta… We have strict procedures for handling bats and working with samples from them as they are secured in the field and transported to the lab. Field team members handling animals will be trained to utilize personal protective equipment and practice proper environmental disinfection techniques. This includes wearing coveralls or dedicated clothing, nitrile gloves, eye protection, and a P95 or P100 respirator. All field clothing and equipment will be disinfected using Virkon disinfectant. [Emphasis added.]’ “However, public reports indicate EcoHealth staff did not always adhere to their own safety requirements. A journalist along on one of EcoHealth’s expeditions to the bat-filled caves witnessed at least one EcoHealth staffer not following the requirements for using personal protective equipment (PPE). “EcoHealth’s research partner, the WIV, also had documented biosafety lapses. A video released two years before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic showed WIV scientists’ lax use of PPE and being bitten by bats that carry deadly viruses such as SARS.  The video revealed that they showed ‘a shocking disregard for safety when handling potentially infectious bats both in the wild and in the lab.’” In addition to requesting a briefing for staff, the members ask Acting Director Tabak and Director Walensky to answer the following questions by October 12, 2022: Groups of scientists are trying to discover new viruses to study their potential for pathogenesis in human and animals as well as their potential to cause an outbreak, an epidemic or a pandemic. Are there currently any policies or guidelines for such scientific work to be performed in a safe and secure manner? Do you think it is prudent for the U.S. government to establish appropriate policies and guidelines for safely working with such viruses and associated biological materials, since they may possess the potential for zoonosis and could contribute to the next outbreak, epidemic or a pandemic if handled inappropriately? Should the current BMBL devote a section to cover this concern and need? What are the risks associated with field-related activities, such as the collection of specimens from bats or other wildlife sources and the potential for SARS-like CoV infection of staff? During the processing of these samples for virus isolation, these materials might be subjected to multiple passages in a cell culture. Multiple passaging might contribute or lead to mutational events with adaptation resulting in a virus that is now capable of infecting humans or animals. How do you monitor for it and ensure such adaptation does not happen? CLICK HERE  to read the letter to NIH Acting Director Tabak and CDC Director Walensky. CLICK HERE  to read more about the investigation into the origins of COVID-19.

Sep 21, 2022

Leader Rodgers Demands Floor Vote for Oversight on Biden’s Baby Formula Crisis

Energy and Commerce Democrats Agree He has Failed Parents and Babies  BREAKING NEWS : For parents, President Biden and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must answer for empty baby and infant formula shelves.  Republicans and Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee  JUST favorably reported  Congressman Tim Walberg’s (R-MI) H. Res. 1287, which requests certain documents from the administration related to its delayed and disastrous response to this supply crisis.   Now, House Energy and Commerce Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) is demanding Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) bring this resolution to the floor.   “Parents—who are already struggling to afford groceries, gas, and electricity bills—still can’t find the baby formula they need,”  said Rodgers.  “President Joe Biden owes them answers. For months, my Republican colleagues on the Energy and Commerce Committee have been calling for complete transparency from his administration on why it repeatedly failed to act with urgency to address supply shortages and empty shelves. Today, Democrats on the Committee agreed. Now, we are demanding Speaker Pelosi bring this resolution to the floor and require the administration to hand over documents for robust and proper oversight of this crisis. We should do everything we can to make sure the administration is held accountable so these failures never happen again.”  NOTE:  H. Res. 1287 was reported favorably by the Energy and Commerce Committee by a bipartisan vote of (54-0). This comes after Republicans repeatedly called for the Biden administration to be completely transparent to moms and dads struggling to find baby formula. In July, Leader Rodgers, Health Subcommittee Republican Leader Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Oversight Subcommittee Republican Leader Morgan Griffith (R-VA)  requested  the FDA produce memos and reports sent to the White House about this crisis. To date, the FDA has not shared a complete response to these requests with the Committee despite promises to do so.

Sep 19, 2022
Big Tech

Media Wrap-Up: Leader Rodgers Previews Top E&C Priorities

Don’t miss these highlights from  Punchbowl News ,  Bloomberg Law , and  E&E News , of House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) previewing top priorities for Energy and Commerce Republicans, including oversight over the Biden administration. PUNCHBOWL NEWS: Exclusive Interview with Cathy McMorris Rodgers On Thursday,  Leader Rodgers joined Punchbowl News’  Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer for a discussion of her priorities for Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee. HIGHLIGHTS FROM PUNCHBOWL: ON FLIPPING THE SWITCH ON AMERICAN ENERGY PRODUCTION:  “We’re going to stop the war that’s been waged on American energy. We have abundant energy resources, ingenuity, and new technologies that are so important to affordability, reliability, as well as our energy security and national security. “I am quite disheartened by the [Democrats’] political agenda that seems to be dominated on energy that is making us more dependent upon Chinese supply chains and our foreign adversaries.” HOLDING BIG TECH ACCOUNTABLE:  Leader Rodgers said she was concerned about “the amount of data that’s collected that has been stored in China” from TikTok and explained the dangers of Snapchat. “I will put Snapchat up there too. There are a number of examples of individuals that have purchased a pill laced with fentanyl unknowingly off Snapchat and died. I have stories in my own district. And they’re not being held accountable for criminal activity.” ON E&C’S AUTHORIZING RESPONSIBILITIES:  “Clearly, it’s time to authorize the CDC. We’re the authorizing committee. We’re the committee of jurisdiction. That’s fundamental to our role as elected representatives of the people to determine the mission and give direction to these agencies. “The CDC has never been authorized. The NIH’s authorization ended in 2020. Many of the agencies within the Energy and Commerce Committee need to have their authorization updated. That is our fundamental responsibility. “I’ve seen Dr. [Rochelle] Walensky, the CDC Director’s, review. She’s asking for more money and more authority. Well, Congress is the one that needs to authorize that. “This is just so fundamental to our oversight efforts as well as building trust. Because the trust among the public health agencies has been shattered, especially during COVID in the last couple of years. Restoring trust also means bringing accountability. I believe it’s important that we are drafting the authorization to give that clear direction.” ON COVID-19 OVERSIGHT:  “We need to answer the question of where COVID-19 originated. That’s fundamental to informing our decisions moving forward. “Overall, regarding the COVID response, the lockdowns, the decisions that were made in response to COVID, we want to look at the decisions that were made, what drove those decisions, and how we might want to approach that in the future. “This generation of school aged kids that have been impacted. Their education has been impacted. We have a mental health crisis among our kids due to the lockdowns and the decisions that were made in that moment that did not take into consideration any other factors.” CLICK HERE  to watch the full conversation. IN E&E NEWS: “Ready to go on oversight.” KEY HIGHLIGHTS as reported by E&E:  Aside from legislation, the ninth-term legislator expects Energy and Commerce to ramp up oversight of a range of energy and environmental agencies. “We’re anxious, we have a lot of [oversight] work to do, and we are ready to go at it,” said McMorris Rodgers. She said EPA, the Department of Energy, the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should all be ready for oversight sessions next year if she’s wielding the gavel. McMorris Rodgers said she is especially interested in hearings to explore how agencies are operating in the wake of this summer’s Supreme Court ruling on West Virginia v. EPA, which limited the agency’s power to broadly regulate emissions. Conservatives saw the ruling as an opening to challenge the scope and authority of other federal regulators. “Where agencies are going beyond their authority, it’s very important that we hold them accountable,” she added. CLICK HERE  to read the full coverage. IN BLOOMBERG: Rodgers said she sees a “real crisis of confidence” in federal health agencies. KEY HIGHLIGHTS, as reported by Bloomberg Law:  House Republicans aren’t waiting for next year to demand documents from the Biden administration about the federal response to the Covid pandemic and the role of key presidential advisers. Republicans want to use a procedural tool—known as a resolution of inquiry—in the coming weeks to advance investigations into areas ranging from Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra’s role as a Covid adviser to oversight of research conducted in China at the start of the pandemic. “There are so many questions that need to be answered about the government’s response to Covid-19,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in an interview. “How the pandemic started, that’s probably the most important public health question that needs to be answered.” […] The resolutions include demands for: information around how much Covid funding remains and how many tests and vaccines were purchased (H. Res. 1263); documents related to oversight of the Wuhan Institute of Virology laboratory (H. Res. 1267); records of HHS Secretary Becerra’s role in the Covid response (H. Res. 1268); and plans for dealing with the rise in fentanyl-related overdose deaths (H. Res. 1274). CLICK HERE  to read the full coverage.