White House bars FDA commissioner from testifying before committee

The White House blocked FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn from testifying before the Energy and Commerce Committee, Politico reported.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. and Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Democratic Rep. Anna G. Eshoo said in a statement Friday that “despite bipartisan interest and our request for Commissioner Hahn to appear before the Energy and Commerce Committee this month, the White House has blocked Dr. Hahn from testifying.”

The lawmakers noted the committee’s “concerns about the Trump Administration’s ongoing political interference into the COVID-19 response efforts of our public health agencies,” and stressed that “the American people deserve to hear” from Hahn to “ensure that the agency’s COVID-19 decisions remain science-based.”

Meanwhile, the FDA has recently ousted two Trump appointees at the agency.

In early September, John Wagner, who was appointed by the Trump administration to lead the FDA’s office of external affairs was replaced with Hedii Rebello, who spent over 14 years at the FDA.  This replacement came days after Hahn fired the Trump appointed FDA spokesperson Emily Miller days after she started the job. Miller was reportedly involved with preparing for the FDA’s announcement to issue an emergency authorization for convalescent plasma, which was met with swift backlash from medical experts, for which Hahn apologized.  

A White House spokesperson confirmed to Politico that Hahn was barred from testifying so that
“health officials can keep their time and energy focused on responding to the coronavirus.”

Earlier this month, it was reported that Michael Caputo, the head spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services, and his scientific advisor, Dr. Paul Alexadnder, may have successfully delayed CDC reports that conflicted with the president’s political viewpoints, according to Politico. Caputo, a longtime Republican political strategist before being appointed as HHS spokesman in April, is currently taking medical leave. 

 

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Democratic chairman says White House blocked FDA commissioner from testifying

The White House blocked Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn from testifying before the House panel overseeing the administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, its Democratic leaders announced Friday.  

“The American people deserve to hear Commissioner Hahn’s response to those concerns during a public hearing and what actions he is taking to ensure that the agency’s COVID-19 decisions remain science-based,” Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooHillicon Valley: Zuckerberg acknowledges failure to take down Kenosha military group despite warnings | Election officials push back against concerns over mail-in voting, drop boxes Democrat asks intel agencies if they’re surveilling members of Congress Overnight Health Care: Supreme Court to hear ObamaCare arguments 1 week after election | NYC positive COVID-19 tests hit record low MORE (D-Calif.), who chairs its health subcommittee, said in a statement. “The White House’s muzzling of the FDA’s top scientist further injures public trust and confidence in FDA.”

Earlier this week Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy also accused the White House of blocking trade advisor Peter Navarro from testifying before their panel.

A White House spokesperson told The Hill Hahn was blocked from testifying because it’s “part of the administration’s existing protocol to make sure health officials can keep their time and energy focused on responding to the coronavirus.”

Hahn has testified before Congress four times since the start of the pandemic, the last time being in late June. Since then, three potential coronavirus vaccines moved to phase three trials, which will determine safety and effectiveness. 

Democrats have been skeptical of the administration’s vaccine efforts, which they say may be overlooking important safety measures in an effort to have results before the November elections. 

“I am often asked about how and when FDA will authorize or approve a vaccine to protect against [coronavirus]. Here is my answer: when the agency’s scientific experts have completed their review and are ready to do so, and not a moment before,” Hahn tweeted Friday. 

Late last month Hahn ousted Trump-appointed spokesperson Emily Miller after 11 days on the job amid the fallout over the agency’s decision to issue an emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19 patients.

Michael Caputo, a Trump-appointed Health and Human Services (HHS) communications official, announced Wednesday he was taking medical leave after making “comments that reflected poorly on the office and HHS.”

Hahn is still scheduled to appear before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Tuesday, alongside infectious disease expert Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight Health Care: CDC reverses controversial testing guidance | Billions more could be needed for vaccine

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White House blocked FDA commissioner from testifying to House panel

Hahn, who is scheduled to testify before a Republican-led Senate panel next week, in recent weeks has worked to reestablish his agency’s independence amid pressure from President Donald Trump to deliver faster on coronavirus vaccines and treatments. Hahn ousted the agency’s top spokesperson, a Trump appointee, after a disastrous rollout of an emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma. He also has repeatedly pledged the FDA will be transparent about how it evaluates Covid-19 vaccine candidates.

“I am often asked about how and when FDA will authorize or approve a vaccine to protect against [Covid-19]. Here is my answer: when the agency’s scientific experts have completed their review and are ready to do so, and not a moment before,” Hahn tweeted Friday.

Background: Hahn appears to be the most recent administration official blocked from testifying before a House panel on the administration’s coronavirus response. The White House earlier this week prevented trade adviser Peter Navarro from testifying before a House Oversight subcommittee about the administration’s use of the Defense Production Act to manufacture ventilators.

What’s next: Hahn is still scheduled to appear at a Senate HELP Committee hearing on Sept. 23 alongside infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Robert Redfield and HHS testing czar Brett Giroir.

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White House blocks Navarro from testifying before Congress

WASHINGTON — White House trade adviser Peter Navarro is refusing to testify before a House subcommittee about a canceled contract for ventilators that Democrats say would have wasted more than $500 million.



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“Despite the astonishing scale of this waste; the loss of more than 190,000 lives; and his willingness to appear on the cable news shows of his choice — Mr. Navarro refuses to appear before Congress to answer for his actions,” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, chairman of the House Oversight subcommittee on economic and consumer policy, said in a statement Monday.

Peter Navarro: The question of how much convalescent plasma helps, ‘that’s to be determined’

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This comes after an interview Navarro did with CNN on Sunday went off the rails when it was cut short after he argued with host Jake Tapper about the revelations from Bob Woodward’s new book last week that President Donald Trump intentionally downplayed the coronavirus in the early months of the pandemic.

Krishnamoorthi said that the contract with company Philips Respironics would have wasted $504 million. He said the hearing, which was set for Wednesday, is now canceled.

Michael Purpura, deputy counsel to the president, wrote in a letter to Krishnamoorthi last week stating that the White House declines the invitation to make Navarro available for testimony because “in accordance with long-standing Executive Branch precedent presidential advisers generally do not testify in Congress.”

Last week, Krishnamoorthi said in an interview on MSNBC that Navarro “botched” the contract with Philips and lawmakers want to know “what else is out there in terms of wasteful spending in other pandemic procurement efforts.”

HHS canceled some of these ventilator contracts at the beginning of September, announcing in a statement that the national stockpile had reached its maximum capacity for ventilators, with nearly 120,000 available for deployment.

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