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The Hill
The Hill
16 Feb 2024
Nathaniel Weixel

NextImg:House COVID panel leader threatens to subpoena HHS for lack of cooperation

The chair of the House panel investigating the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to subpoena Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials Friday over a lack of cooperation with the committee’s investigation unless they answer another round of specific questions. 

In a letter sent to HHS Assistant Secretary for Legislation Melanie Egorin, Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) expressed frustration with Egorin’s recent public testimony and what he said was a persistent lack of cooperation from the agency on producing documents related to the virus’s origins, vaccine messaging and policies about COVID closures.  

Egorin repeatedly insisted during a hearing late last month that HHS has cooperated with the panel and has produced thousands of pages of documents in response to the panel’s requests. 

But Wenstrup in the letter accused HHS officials of “dragging their feet” on responding to more than a dozen specific requests. He and other Republicans on the panel have said the documents are either heavily redacted or completely irrelevant.  

“We know, for a fact, that the Department is currently withholding critical documents. The Department’s failure to provide the requested documents is unacceptable,” Wenstrup wrote.  

If the agency doesn’t respond to the latest requests for information in a way that Wenstrup finds satisfactory, he said the panel “will evaluate the use of the compulsory process to obtain the testimony of Department employees who know the answers to these questions.” 

Yet panel Democrats have said Wenstrup’s efforts are aimed at further politicizing the pandemic and portraying the Biden administration in a negative light rather than trying to resolve any real problems or challenges. During Egorin’s hearing, ranking member Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) noted agency officials sat for more than 80 hours of transcribed interviews.  

As part of its investigation, Wenstrup’s panel has also heard closed-door testimony from the nation’s former top infectious diseases doctor, Anthony Fauci, and the former National Institutes of Health director, Francis Collins.

Fauci is expected to testify publicly later this year.