WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the HELP Committee, called on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigate possible undue political influence at the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and whether this interference has violated the agencies’ scientific integrity and communication policies.
“The CDC and FDA’s independence as scientific agencies is crucial to safeguarding the public health and saving lives,” the Senators wrote. “These agencies must be able to develop, review, and disseminate public health data, guidelines, and other information that are based on science, facts, and medical principles and not the political imperatives and moods of a president and his advisors. But the Trump Administration has reportedly pressured the CDC and FDA throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, repeatedly applying political pressure and imposing orders on career scientists that undermine the agencies’ credibility and independence.”
The Senators’ request follows 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.
The letter builds on Peters’ efforts 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 text of the letter is available here.