WASHINGTON, DC – At the request of U.S. Senators Gary Peters, Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the HELP Committee, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the independent arm of Congress, has agreed to conduct an investigation of the Administration’s political interference at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and to determine whether this interference has violated the agencies’ scientific integrity and communication policies.
“The GAO’s decision to conduct an independent audit is a good first step towards making sure that guidance coming from federal agencies is based on science and facts, not on the Trump Administration’s political agenda or the President’s whims,” said the Senators. “Health and science experts should be able to do their jobs to steer us through crises like this pandemic without political interference, and we must ensure that the American people receive fact-based information so that they can make well-informed decisions for themselves and their families amidst this national public health emergency.”
The Senators called for a review of political interference at the FDA and CDC following alarming reports of political interference in the COVID-19 response, including reports that the White House pressured the CDC to downplay risks associated with children returning to in-person learning at schools, and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) political appointees reviewed and may have altered or delayed weekly scientific reports issued by CDC about the pandemic. Other reports show that the White House attempted to block the FDA from issuing strict guidance for authorizing COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use. The guidance was ultimately released, but only after news broke of the White House’s attempts to block it.
As Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Peters has worked to ensure appropriate oversight of the Administration’s Coronavirus response. Peters, Warren, and Murray also led 27 of their Senate colleagues calling for the HHS inspector general to investigate these serious reports of political interference. The Senators all are also cosponsors of the Science and Transparency Over Politics (STOP) Act. This legislation would create a task force within the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) charged with investigating political interference in decisions made by HHS scientific agencies related to the pandemic. Peters spearheaded the creation of the PRAC, group of agency watchdogs established as a part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, to oversee the federal government’s response to the ongoing pandemic and root out fraud, waste, and abuse in related stimulus spending.
The full response confirming the investigation from the GAO can be found here.