WASHINGTON, D.C. — Republican Whip and Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Ranking Member Steve Scalise (R-La.) today called out Subcommittee Democrats for ignoring the Biden Administration’s potential political interference in the coronavirus response and demanded the Democrats expand their investigation to include the current administration.
In a letter to Chairman James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Scalise points out that the Biden Administration chastised U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky for stating at an official White House event that schools should reopen regardless of teacher vaccination status. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki quickly dismissed Dr. Walensky’s on the record statement as her speaking in her “personal capacity.” Given that the CDC plans to release new school reopening guidance this week, Scalise raises concerns about potential political interference if the new guidance does not contain Dr. Walenksy’s on the record statement. Scalise warns Subcommittee Democrats to not coverup any missteps the Biden Administration is making and calls on them to expand their oversight to include the Biden Administration.
February 8, 2021
The Honorable James E. Clyburn
Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Chairman Clyburn:
We are in receipt of your letters to White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain and Acting Secretary of Health and Human Services Norris Cochran requesting a litany of potentially privileged documents and communications from the prior administration. These letters conspicuously ignore the entirety of the Biden Administration’s COVID-19 response.
Since January 20, 2021, the Biden Administration set an easily achievable daily vaccination goal—a goal already on pace to be reached because of the foundation inherited from the Trump Administration. Rather than building on the previous administration’s success, the Biden Administration has executed multi-billion dollar contracts for vaccines, which are undeliverable before the summer, pushed overbroad and potentially harmful trillion dollar spending packages, misled the public about the existence of a vaccine rollout plan, and, most shockingly, chastised the Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for suggesting that schools should be reopened.
On February 3, 2021, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky stated schools should reopen regardless of teacher vaccination status. Specifically, Dr. Walensky said, “[t]here is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen, and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated.” She added, “[v]accination[s] of teachers is not a prerequisite for safely reopening schools.” In response, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “Dr. Walensky spoke to this in her personal capacity.”
Dr. Walensky made these statements at an official White House event, in front of the CDC logo, and the transcript is available on the White House website. She was not speaking in her personal capacity. The CDC is planning to release a new school reopening guidance this week. If this guidance says anything other than what Dr. Walensky has previously stated, on record, it raises significant questions about the Biden Administration using political interference to sideline scientists they disagree with.
During the establishment of the Select Subcommittee you said, “[your] work would be forward looking.” Now that there is a Democrat Administration, the Select Subcommittee should not start trying to cover up for missteps they are making. Considering the above facts, we respectfully request that you amend your information request to include the dates of January 20, 2021 through the present and specifically include potential interference in upcoming CDC school reopening guidance. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.
Steve J. Scalise