WASHINGTON, D.C. — In his opening remarks at Friday’s hearing of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, Republic Whip and Ranking Member Steve Scalise (R-La.) applauded the Trump Administration’s bold and historic plan to combat COVID-19 and save American lives, as testified to by numerous of our nation’s leading experts this morning.
Democrats titled today’s hearing “The Urgent Need for a National Plan to Contain the Coronavirus,” which, given the hundreds of guidance documents provided by the Trump Administration to states, suggests that Democrats either haven’t read or have ignored these plans, instead deciding to push a false political agenda that is intended to harm President Trump instead of protecting American communities.
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Mr. Chairman, this is the first time our subcommittee has gathered since the passing of an American icon, and a cherished colleague — the honorable John Lewis. I want to extend my condolences to you personally. You were friends with John for sixty years. We have all been touched by the personal recollections you have shared the past week. John has taken his place in heaven, but he remains forever a bright and inspiring part of the story of America and American history.
“Mr. Chairman, I appreciate you holding a hearing with these witnesses. All of us, on behalf of our constituents and colleagues welcome the opportunity to say thank you to each witness and equally importantly, to their teams — hundreds and even thousands of fellow Americans who have worked around the clock for months to confront and respond to this global pandemic.
“I am, however, puzzled by the title of the hearing. ‘The urgent need for a national plan’ once again suggests this is not an oversight hearing. The majority wants to use today to advance a political message rather than hear from experts about where we are and what lessons we have learned over these past months.
“Critics keep shouting about ‘a plan’ — perhaps they should take some time and read these plans — they are all public, they were all created by experts in their field, and each was created and executed because President Trump approved them.
“These three internationally respected experts, their teams, and countless others at federal, state, and local governments, as well as the private sector, get up every single day and continue planning, executing, adjusting, and delivering.
“These three are here representing an Administration that has saved American lives because of the plan they continue to execute. CDC began planning in January — before China’s lies and the WHO’s coverup were even exposed. Today there are 151 CDC guidance documents. The guidance ranges from how to reopen schools safely, testing strategies in workplace settings, how to manage COVID in prisons, and how to protect seniors in nursing homes.
“The President’s task force developed a plan — ‘15 days to stop the spread.’ That was in March. And then more information became available. And at the end of March, Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci went into the Oval Office and recommended extending that plan for another thirty days. Dr. Fauci said in the Rose Garden, ‘Dr. Birx and I spent a considerable amount of time going over all the data, why we felt this was the best choice for us, and the President accepted it.’ The President approved a critical plan recommended by respected experts and unleashed the team to implement the plan. And it saved lives.
“The Trump Administration then released a plan — called ‘Guidelines — Opening Up America Again’ on how states could begin safely reopening. The plan was developed by public health experts. Democrats had been complaining that President Trump did not have the power to force states to reopen. So the Administration released guidelines. States had discretion and each state made their own decision. Some followed those reopening guidelines more rigorously than others.
“We hear cries of ‘we need a plan on testing.’ HHS has led on testing: from zero to over 800 thousand tests a day in a matter of months. Over 52 million tests conducted nationally. In May HHS released a ‘COVID-19 Strategic Testing Plan.’ On July 10, HHS made all state testing plans publicly available. As our witness ADM Giroir has said, ‘Testing is not just about numbers — it is about targeting testing to the right people at the right time.’ To that point, the Trump administration has begun distribution of rapid point of care tests to nursing homes as part of the continuing effort to protect older adults. Each nursing home will receive one diagnostic test instrument and associated tests. We know how critical it is to protect the most vulnerable and making nursing homes safe must remain a top priority.
“On May 15, 2020, President Trump announced Operation Warp Speed (OWS), a public-private partnership between several federal government agencies to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics, including the specific goal of delivering 300 million doses of a safe, effective vaccine for COVID-19 by January 2021.
“The progress has been remarkable. Moderna has moved into phase 3 clinical trials — and are working in partnership with Dr. Fauci’s NIAID. Johnson and Johnson recently made a similar announcement.
“Dr. Fauci, I look forward to learning more about the stunning progress. You have been researching cures and vaccines to some of the most awful viruses unleashed in human history — HIV, Ebola, and now coronavirus. We still do not have a vaccine for HIV — your work and others have made it a disease people can live with — but that took a decade or more. Now, with your team’s leadership we have a real chance to make this the fastest-developed vaccine in history — months, not years and decades. President Trump has made sure that Operation Warp Speed has the resources, the focus and the ability to cut through red tape to accomplish this goal.
“Importantly, Operation Warp Speed is as equally focused on ensuring the availability of the vaccine as the development of a vaccine. Contracts are already being awarded to ensure the production of 300 million doses by January. We are learning the lessons from past mistakes — such as during the H1N1 crisis at the start of the Obama-Biden Administration. The aim was for 100 million doses, but my understanding is that production came up woefully short — just 11 million. Thankfully, we got lucky with H1N1 and it proved not to be as lethal as we feared.
“As Operation Warp Speed proceeds, this subcommittee must help expose and stop the clear attempt by China to steal the intellectual property for the vaccine. The Justice Department has already indicted a pair of Chinese hackers for targeting vaccine development on behalf of China’s intelligence service. The work of Dr. Fauci’s team and our great American companies must be protected — and Mr. Chairman, this subcommittee should have a hearing on this topic immediately.
“Finally, as we move into August, parents look to the beginning of the new school year. I hope America will listen to the guidance from CDC. Let me quote: ‘It is important to consider the full spectrum of benefits and risks of both in-person and virtual learning options… The best available evidence indicates if children become infected, they are far less likely to suffer severe symptoms… Aside from a child’s home, no other setting has more influence on a child’s health and well-being than their school. The in-person school environment does the following:
- provides educational instruction;
- supports the development of social and emotional skills;
- creates a safe environment for learning;
- addresses nutritional needs; and
- facilitates physical activity.’
“That is the CDC. Those are the experts. We can safely reopen schools and we must do everything we can that needs to be done in order to support in-person learning this fall. We can do this! I yield back.”