Chairwoman DeLauro Statement at Hearing on COVID-19 Response

2020-05-06 09:50

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on COVID-19 response:

Good morning – welcome to the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee. Today’s hearing is on the nation’s ongoing response to the coronavirus. Like all the other efforts on the supplemental package, it has been bipartisan. Let me commend my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, including my friend the ranking member, Mr. Tom Cole.

Before I begin, I want to extend a very warm welcome to our witnesses.

  • Dr. Tom Frieden, President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, and former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, from 2009 through 2016; and,
  • Dr. Caitlin Rivers, Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, and Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Dr. Frieden in his testimony will provide a perspective based of 30 years of fighting epidemics, including leading the CDC’s response to Ebola, of where we are and what we need to do to protect Americans. Dr. Rivers makes the case why in the months and years to come we will need additional capacities in diagnostic testing, contact tracing, and the health systems to combat the virus.

I am also very glad to have my colleagues here. I want to thank them for being here this morning. On the Democratic side: Congresswomen Katherine Clark, Cheri Bustos, and Bonnie Watson-Coleman. And on the Republican side: Congressmen Tom Cole, Andy Harris, and Jamie Herrera Beutler.

We are all disappointed that others could not be here, because of distance, reduced flights and the health issues raised by the House physician. Chairwoman Nita Lowey, Ranking Member Kay Granger, Congresswomen Lucille Roybal-Allard Barbara Lee and Lois Frankel, and Congressmen Mark Pocan, John Moolenaar, and Tom Graves.

They could not attend but some sent questions, which we will ask on their behalf. But, I want to underscore that members should not be blocked from participating in the committee’s hearings. All committee members should be heard. And that requires moving as quickly as possible into the 21st century and conducting virtual hearings. Every member should be able to participate.

I am angry that the White House mismanaged America’s reaction to the pandemic, and the President has done everything he could to avoid accountability. I am particularly upset about the lack of the necessary testing and personal protective equipment capacity. Both of which could help us to regain control.

And then yesterday, President Donald Trump told reporters he would not permit Dr. Anthony Fauci to testify before the Democratic House committee because, quote, “The House is a bunch of Trump haters.” Quote, “They frankly want our situation to be unsuccessful.”

But, they are allowing Dr. Fauci to testify before the U.S. Senate next week.

This is a bipartisan panel. Dr. Fauci has appeared before our sub-committee dozens of times. He has testified whether it was a Democrats or Republican as chair. He has testified hundreds of times on Capitol Hill working with Democratic and Republican presidents. Yet, now, the White House said no. Leaving no doubt it is just frightened of oversight.

The Labor HHS subcommittee provided billions of dollars of funding for the CDC, the NIH, the National Strategic Stockpile, hospitals and BARDA. We have appropriated $175 billion for hospitals and other health care providers, most recently $25 billion to expand testing and improve diagnostics, including $11 billion for state and locality testing capacity.

The purpose of today’s hearing is to get a clear-eyed view of the path forward for responding to COVID-19:

  • In the near term as we work to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
  • In the medium-term, as we develop the therapeutics to treat the disease and a vaccine to inoculate millions of Americans against the coronavirus; and
  • In the long-term, as we make investments to enhance our nation’s public health and global health systems to better prepare for the next pandemic over the horizon.

Those are the three pillars we will look to build.

In today’s hearing, I want to explore the recommendations of our two public health experts on the necessary measures that must be put in place and the benchmarks that must be met, to move forward while keeping Americans safe.

Science and facts must drive our policy, and that demands hearing from the doctors, scientists, researchers and experts who command those facts and drive science to public policy.

It is urgent we do so. Disease modelers predicted, according to the New York Times and the Washington Post, that in the coming month, 3,000 Americans could die every day. There is no time to delay.

Our witnesses today will give us the analysis, the facts, the science, and the strategy that will help us make the right decisions.

Now I would like to recognize my good friend Tom Cole, the Ranking Member, for any opening remarks he would like to make.


116th Congress