WASHINGTON, D.C. — Republican Whip and Ranking Member of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Steve Scalise (R-La.)’s opening statement at the Select Subcommittee’s hearing on transitioning to a post-COVID landscape asks Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to address why vaccinated American people can’t return to normal activities, like sending their kids to school and dining at restaurants, while at the same time the Biden Administration is releasing COVID-positive migrants into the country.
Last week, Whip Scalise led a delegation of 10 Republican lawmakers to the border to witness the ongoing humanitarian, health, and national security crisis created by President Biden’s dangerous actions and rhetoric. In his opening remarks, Whip Scalise criticized the Biden Administration for not following its own safety guidelines when it comes to preventing migrants from spreading COVID-19 in the United States.
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding today’s hearing. America is at an important inflection point. The COVID-19 pandemic hit our shores just over a year ago. Too many families mourn the loss of loved ones. Too many children have lost a year of school, many felt depression, and millions lost an irreplaceable year of their childhood. Too many family-owned businesses permanently shuttered. Far too many low-income Americans thrown out of work because of selective, ineffective lockdowns.
“And now we finally see a light at the end of the tunnel – as the title of this hearing suggests.
“American ingenuity has led the way. Operation Warp Speed delivered the fastest vaccine in history. Investments by the U.S. Congress over the past 25-30 years in biomedical research provided the platform to deliver these vaccines. Dr. Fauci, your team at NIH deserves some of that credit. And the American pharmaceutical sector – world class innovators – helped deliver revolutionary vaccines. And President Trump’s leadership and refusal to be told no, led to extraordinary speed – warp speed to use their term – in getting these vaccines from the lab into the arms of over 100 million Americans.
“112 million people, more than 33% of the US population, have received at least one dose of vaccine. About 70 million people, or 20% of the US population, have been fully vaccinated. I commend President Biden for accepting House Republicans challenge of doubling his goal of 100 million shots in 100 days up to 200 million shots. We are on pace to reach that goal.
“But Dr. Fauci and Dr. Walensky the question I get asked the most these days is pretty simple and extremely fair. “If I got the vaccine, why can’t I resume my normal activities? Why can’t my kid go back to school, why can’t I go to a restaurant with my friends?”
“Neither the CDC, nor NIH nor the White House have provided a satisfactory or comprehensible answer to that question.
“In the absence of logical guidance, Americans have done what Americans do better than any people on earth. They have taken matters into their own hands.
“I know we’ve learned a lot along the way and are still learning about this virus. But the data now shows that the harshest lockdowns did not work. School closings did not work. Despite the evidence, some local communities – primarily northeastern states – have chosen to remain “locked down.” Some communities – more so in the south – have chosen to lift mandates, and safely reopen schools and local businesses.
“Yet, as of today, the ten states with the highest infection rates are all northern states – Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, etc. Florida gets a lot of media attention – much of it unfairly harsh – because the people of that state made an early decision to follow the science and get kids back in schools and make life as normal as possible. Their results certainly appear better than those of lockdown zealots in New York or California. But just last week, YouTube took down a video of a roundtable with Florida Governor DeSantis talking with doctors about kids and schools and masks. YouTube has cited CDC guidance as the reason they took down the video. Why would anyone want to silence a governor on the frontlines of this pandemic talking with doctors about best practices regarding their own experiences and sharing what they have learned?
“The American people also deserve better answers about the federal government’s response to the unprecedented surge of illegal migrants crossing our southern border. Last week, I led 10 colleagues to the U.S.-Mexico border to see firsthand the devastating national security, humanitarian, and health crisis that President Biden has created with his disastrous open borders policies. All Republicans on this subcommittee have made that trip.
“At the Donna Processing Facility, we encountered thousands of migrants in cramped makeshift shelters in overcrowded rooms that were more than 10 times the capacity limits. We saw children in tears who simply wanted to go back home to be with their families, but instead were in these federally-run holding cells – with at least a 10% COVID positive rate – for over three weeks.
“President Biden also is not fully enforcing Title 42 of the Public Health Safety Act designed to prevent migrants from spreading COVID in the United States. Since Biden took office, families with children under seven are being dropped off at the McAllen Bus Station and released from custody. No COVID tests, no quarantines, no enforcement. Even more concerning is that the Biden Administration may completely end enforcement of Title 42. If that happens, Border Patrol told us the numbers of illegal crossings the border could mushroom even higher.
“As we toured the Donna Processing Facility, we saw the holding rooms President Biden set up for young children. Each room is not supposed to have more than 50 people, six per cell, but we saw more than 400 children packed like sardines into cells designed for less than 50. It was heartbreaking to see so many young children packed into these cells, laying on the floor, many crying to return home to family. Social distancing does not exist at these facilities.
“Dr. Fauci and Dr. Walensky, I urge you to go to the border and assess this tragic situation and lend your expertise to ending an unfolding public health crisis in addition to a national security crisis at our nation’s southern border.
“But I also urge you as public health officials to understand the frustration and confusion of the American people. Covid positive migrants are released into the country, and that’s allowed – but a vaccinated person can’t go to a restaurant? Kids packed in crowded, poorly ventilated cells six inches, not six feet, apart for 20 hours a day or more – but we can’t open schools for in person learning?
“Public health messaging only works if the people trust the messengers. The light at the end of this tunnel – everyone of us on this subcommittee agrees on this point and so do our witnesses – the light at the end of the tunnel is to vaccinate as many people as possible and reopen America.
“The Biden Administration needs to do better – starting today.”