Home News A House committee set out to investigate COVID. Surprisingly, it’s making headway.

A House committee set out to investigate COVID. Surprisingly, it’s making headway.

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A House committee set out to investigate COVID. Surprisingly, it’s making headway.

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When House Republicans formed a special committee to investigate the pandemic, the odds of bipartisan cooperation seemed low. COVID-19 origins, the first of nine topics it was charged with investigating, was highly politicized. But the committee’s hearings this month have been surprisingly bipartisan, marking a significant shift in the politics around the pandemic.

GOP investigations into U.S. taxpayer-funded research on coronaviruses in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the pandemic, were once dubbed a “witch hunt” by Democrats. The larger question of COVID-19 origins is still far from settled. But members from both parties are now moving to hold accountable federal officials and grantees – including a senior adviser to Dr. Anthony Fauci, for an apparent breach in trust. And the Biden administration has acted on the committee’s recommendation to suspend funding to a key figure at the heart of the COVID-19 origins debate.

“It’s so important to restore confidence in public health and science by showing that where we identify misconduct, we take it seriously,” says Miles Lichtman, the Democratic staff director of the select subcommittee. “That is not a political issue; that is about best serving the American people.”

Why We Wrote This

A House committee’s substantive hearings this month stand in stark contrast to the grandstanding and partisan fights elsewhere in Congress – and have shed new light around a highly politicized issue.

When House Republicans formed a special committee to investigate the COVID-19 pandemic in January 2023, the odds of bipartisan cooperation seemed low. 

Some of the members on the committee were considered bomb-throwers, more interested in generating viral clips than in passing legislation. And COVID-19 origins, the first of nine topics it was charged with investigating, was one of the most politicized issues in Washington. 

With more than a year’s work under its belt, the committee has turned out to be surprisingly bipartisan – and effective. This week, it prompted the Biden administration to suspend funding to a scientist at the heart of the COVID-19 origins debate, Peter Daszak, and his organization. It also proposed debarring him and his nonprofit from receiving federal funds going forward. And on Wednesday, Democrats joined Republicans in grilling another scientist, a longtime adviser to Dr. Anthony Fauci, about apparent efforts to shield his emails from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. 

Why We Wrote This

A House committee’s substantive hearings this month stand in stark contrast to the grandstanding and partisan fights elsewhere in Congress – and have shed new light around a highly politicized issue.

“It is not antiscience to hold you accountable for defying the public’s trust and misusing official resources,” said the top Democrat on the committee, Dr. Raul Ruiz of California. 

The substantive hearings and bipartisan action from the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic mark a significant shift in the politics around the issue. GOP investigations into U.S. taxpayer-funded research on coronaviruses in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the pandemic, were once dubbed a “witch hunt” by Democrats. The larger question of COVID-19 origins is still far from settled. But members of both parties are now moving to hold federal officials and grantees accountable for an apparent breach in trust. 

“It’s so important to restore confidence in public health and science by showing that where we identify misconduct, we take it seriously,” says Miles Lichtman, the Democratic staff director of the select subcommittee. “That is not a political issue; that is about best serving the American people.”

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