By CASEY HARPER | THE CENTER SQUARE
A group of lawmakers is calling out U.S. Health and Human Services, arguing the federal agency is bucking congressional oversight, especially when it comes to the federal response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic Chair Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, said he will hold a hearing Wednesday on that very topic.
“HHS has spent the last year intentionally avoiding lawful Congressional oversight,” Wenstrup said in a statement.
Wenstrup’s committee has been investigating whether taxpayer dollars played a role in the spread or even creation of COVID-19.
As The Center Square previously reported, EcoHealth Alliance is a group that received federal funding to research coronaviruses and bats via the lab in Wuhan, China, that later became the center of international scrutiny for its alleged role in the pandemic.
The contract with that lab has been severed, but lawmakers have been trying for years to get to the bottom of how the pandemic started and whether this funding played a part.
Congress has also been demanding answers for how COVID vaccine and other guidance was created and updated.
Wenstrup said that HHS has been slow to answer, provided redacted information, and ignored or “provided suspect excuses” when asked to provide documents and communications, a standard procedure for Congressional oversight committees.
Wenstrup, who has been backed by other leading Republican Committee chairs, also asked for communications between federal employees and EcoHealth Alliance as well as a range of other related requests.
“When we asked for important testimony, HHS seemed to purposefully mislead Select Subcommittee investigators,” Wenstrup said. “This pattern of avoiding accountability to the American people cannot, and should not, be tolerated any longer.”
The committee is asking for communications for top COVID officials within the government, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, who led the federal COVID response for the White House.
“The Department must be held responsible for its parade of delays, excuses, and obfuscation,” he added. “If HHS continues to obscure the Select Subcommittee’s investigation, we will be forced to evaluate the use of the compulsory process.”
The hearing is expected to feature testimony from HHS Assistant Secretary for Legislation Melanie Egorin.
HHS did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.