Azar to testify before House coronavirus subcommittee

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar will appear in front of the House Oversight and Reform Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis as his agency faces a whirlwind of controversies.

The panel’s chairman, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) announced Thursday that Azar will appear in front of the committee on Oct. 2 to testify on the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Clyburn said the hearing will “examine the Trump Administration’s unprecedented political interference in the work of scientists and public health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration, the Administration’s refusal to provide accurate and clear public health information, and the failure of the Administration to develop and implement a comprehensive national plan to contain the coronavirus, more than eight months into this public health emergency.” 

Next month’s hearing will mark the first time Azar has testified before Congress since February, according to Clyburn. 

Democrats have torn into the administration’s handling of the pandemic, which has now killed more than 197,000 people in America and infected over 6.6 million. 

The announcement of Azar’s testimony comes as the Department of Health and Human Services faces a flood of criticism from Democrats that it has worked to politicize the government’s response to the pandemic, accusations Azar has so far not addressed in depth. 

Reports have surfaced in recent weeks that Michael Caputo, the agency’s top communications official who announced Wednesday he was taking medical leave, tried to pressure scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to edit their weekly reports on the pandemic and accused the CDC in a video of harboring a “resistance unit” opposing President TrumpDonald John TrumpBarr criticizes DOJ in speech declaring all agency power ‘is invested in the attorney general’ Military leaders asked about using heat ray on protesters outside White House: report Powell warns failure to reach COVID-19 deal could ‘scar and damage’ economy MORE.

In the same video, Caputo urged Trump’s followers to prepare for an armed insurrection if Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Memo: Warning signs flash for Trump on debates Senate Republicans signal openness to working with Biden National postal mail handlers union endorses Biden MORE loses the election and refuses to concede.

Democrats have also voiced concerns over remarks Trump has made about a “deep state” at the Food and Drug Administration as he pressures the agency to move faster on approvals of COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.

Lawmakers have said Azar has not done enough to blunt the White House’s efforts to politicize the pandemic response, and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats scramble on COVID-19 relief amid division, Trump surprise Pelosi, Schumer ‘encouraged’ by Trump call for bigger coronavirus relief package Schumer, Sanders call for Senate panel to address election security MORE (D-N.Y.) this week called on him to resign. 

“It has become abundantly clear that the leadership of the Department of Health and Human Services has allowed perhaps the most important federal agency right now to become subservient to the president’s daily whims,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “So today, I am calling on Secretary Azar to resign immediately. We need a Secretary of Health and Human Services who will look out for the American people, not President Trump’s political interests.”

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