By BENJAMIN SIEGEL, ABC NEWS
(WASHINGTON) — The White House has blocked Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the government’s coronavirus task force, from testifying before House lawmakers next week, according to a Democratic spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee.
White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement to ABC News it would be “counter-productive” to the administration’s COVID-19 response for Fauci and other top officials to appear before lawmakers to discuss the government’s actions in relation to the pandemic.
“While the Trump Administration continues its whole-of-government response to COVID-19, including safely opening up America again and expediting vaccine development, it is counter-productive to have the very individuals involved in those efforts appearing at Congressional hearings. We are committed to working with Congress to offer testimony at the appropriate time,” he said.
The White House’s efforts to block Fauci’s testimony were first reported by The Washington Post.
While the House is not in session next week, the House Committee on Appropriations has a subcommittee that supervises the Department of Health and Human Services that will meet Wednesday morning for a hearing scheduled on the coronavirus response.
“The Appropriations Committee sought Dr. Anthony Fauci as a witness at next week’s Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee hearing on COVID-19 response,” Evan Hollander, the panel’s spokesman, told ABC News. “We have been informed by an administration official that the White House has blocked Dr. Fauci from testifying.”
The panel is responsible for crafting spending legislation, and has played a key role in the coronavirus response efforts on Capitol Hill.
House Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., the chair of the subcommittee that requested Fauci’s testimony, said the American people and Congress “deserve a clear-eyed view of the path forward for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“The people of this country deserve a federal government that is up-to-date, modernized, and prepared to protect lives,” the two representatives wrote.
Former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Tom Frieden will testify before the panel next Wednesday.
Fauci and other top health officials appeared before the House Oversight Committee for a coronavirus response hearing on March 11 and 12, when the United States had roughly 1,000 reported coronavirus cases. That number has ballooned to over 1 million cases and at least 64,000 deaths as of May 1.
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