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Letter - Oversight and Investigations Updates


May 30, 2024
Press Release

Evidence Uncovered by E&C Republicans Refutes Secretary Becerra’s Assertion that HHS Takes Action to Prevent Sexual Abusers from Receiving Taxpayer Funding

Washington, D.C. —  In a new letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA) request information regarding HHS’s suspension and debarment process.  The letter also provides direct evidence refuting Secretary Becerra’s testimony to the Health Subcommittee asserting that HHS “will take immediate action” to stop sexual abusers from receiving taxpayer funding. It comes amid the Committee’s ongoing investigation into sexual harassment at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and at NIH grantee institutions.  KEY LETTER EXCERPT :  “At the April 17, 2024, hearing before the Subcommittee on Health, in response to a question about the redactions of names of confirmed abusers or harassers, you said: ‘If there is an abuser that is receiving taxpayer dollars from the Department of Health and Human Services, . . . in this particular case the National Institutes of Health [NIH], we will take action immediately.’    “ However, your claim is belied by the facts. Based on subpoenaed NIH documents reviewed in camera, Committee staff discovered that an individual who served as principal investigator on at least 24 NIH-grants was not suspended or debarred from receiving federal funding despite his conviction in 2021 of sexual abuse and his medical license being stripped . Based on documentation reviewed during the Committee’s in camera review of sexual misconduct allegations on NIH-funded research, staff found that in September 2020, the NIH recommended to HHS an immediate federal-wide suspension and debarment of this abuser for 10 years based on the abuser’s indictment in 2019 on three counts of sexual abuse, and the grantee institution’s determination that the individual was responsible for sexual harassment in January of 2020. Despite this recommendation from the NIH, followed by the individual’s conviction in December 2021, HHS has taken no action. Three and a half years later, this abuser remains eligible for federal funding. On April 15, 2024, Committee staff sent an email to HHS staff requesting information about the status and handling of this matter. HHS has not yet responded.”  [...]  “ We are troubled by the limited use of suspensions and debarments from awarding agencies within HHS along with the timeliness issues and lack of use of suspensions pre-debarment raised by the HHS OIG. Harassers and abusers with public reporting of their actions, and even some with criminal convictions, are not present on SAM.gov as suspended or debarred .”  BACKGROUND : HHS is the largest grantmaking agency in the federal government—awarding over $778 billion in grants in fiscal year 2023.  Federal suspension and debarment programs help to protect the integrity of federal grant programs by ensuring the federal government does business only with responsible persons.  Individuals or parties receiving grants can be suspended or debarred from continuing to receive federal grants if they lack honesty, integrity, or business performance.  Within HHS, a suspension or debarment action may be initiated from an awarding agency—such as the NIH—or another entity—such as the Office of Inspector General (OIG).     Referrals for suspension or debarment are sent to the HHS Office of Recipient Integrity Coordination (ORIC) for review and final decision by the Suspension and Debarment Official (SDO).  Referrals can be conviction-based—originating from a criminal conviction or civil judgement—or fact-based—in which the referring office builds a case based on facts (e.g., audit findings or failures to disclose).  Suspensions and debarments are not retrospective, meaning respondents can maintain their current award(s), but it does prevent them from receiving new federal awards.   Not only are these suspensions and debarments valid within the referring agency, but they also generally make a respondent ineligible for awards from other federal departments.   Suspended or debarred parties or individuals are listed on SAM.gov and awarding departments can check this list before awarding grants to prevent awarding grants to these parties or individuals.   While federal departments have discretion as to when to refer a respondent for suspension or debarment, HHS—and particularly awarding agencies such as the NIH—can prevent known harassers or abusers from receiving additional federal awards across the federal government through these processes.   However, a 2022 HHS OIG report found several concerns during its audit of HHS’s suspension and debarment processes.  HHS OIG found that 84 percent of referrals came from non-awarding agencies—such as the OIG or Office of Research Integrity—rather than those offices charged with supervising ongoing grants.  This statistic raised concerns for the OIG about the extent to which awarding agencies were doing enough to identify and take action against bad actors and if agencies are missing opportunities for additional suspension and debarment referrals.  Another concern is the timeliness of the HHS suspension and debarment process and the limited use of suspensions during pending debarment proceedings.   The HHS OIG found that nearly half of suspensions implemented by ORIC did not meet its 60-day goal, with several suspensions taking longer than 300 days to implement.  Of the 134 debarments that ORIC implemented, nearly all involved grants, yet less than one-third of these debarments included a preceding suspension.  That means more than two-thirds of respondents may have maintained access to additional federal funding during the debarment process, with the longest case taking 1251 days or nearly three and a half years.  Moreover, for conviction-based debarments—in which the evidentiary threshold has generally already been met by the conviction or judgment—75 percent of conviction-based debarments implemented by ORIC did not meet its 100-day goal.  Rather, implementation took an average of 325 days and nearly a quarter of these debarments took over 500 days to be implemented.  The HHS OIG found numerous areas in which the timeliness, efficiency and effectiveness of HHS’s suspension and debarment program were negatively affected by internal factors.   Specifically, there is a very high turnover rate at both the staff and senior leadership levels of the suspension and debarment program, with ORIC’s full staffing levels being four personnel.  Moreover, seven different people served as HHS’s SDO—the official determining if suspension or debarment is to be implemented—in just four years.  With this kind of turnover, cases may fall through the cracks or be heavily delayed.   Moreover, HHS OIG found that a lack of policies and procedures regarding entering and tracking important case information and milestones plus a lack of guidance on what information is needed in fact-based referrals has limited the ability to suspend or debar individuals.  Specifically, ORIC was not able to suspend or debar several individuals due to a lack of documentation in the referral that showed a referring entity followed its own corrective-action escalation process prior to the suspension or debarment.  CLICK HERE to read the full letter.  TIMELINE OF INVESTIGATION:   August 10, 2021 : E&C Republican Leaders Question NIH’s Handling of Sexual Harassment Complaints    August 11, 2022 : E&C Republican Leaders follow up with NIH on Insufficient Response to its Letter on the NIH’s handling of Sexual Harassment    November 30, 2022 : E&C Republicans to NIH: Turn Over Previously Requested Information Ahead of New Congress    March 14, 2023 : E&C Republicans Press NIH for Information on Handling of Sexual Harassment Complaints    October 6, 2023 : E&C Republicans Signal Intent to Issue Subpoena to Obtain Information on NIH’s Handling of Sexual Harassment if Questions Go Unanswered    January 26, 2024 : Chair Rogers notifies NIH of Imminent Subpoena    February 5, 2024 : Chair Rodgers Subpoenas NIH for Documents Related to Investigation into Sexual Harassment at NIH and NIH Grantee Institutions   February 20, 2024 : HHS Responds on behalf of NIH to offer a rolling in camera document review to the Committee. Documents produced in the review have been highly redacted, including the redaction of the names of individuals convicted of criminal offenses, public news articles about individuals who have been found guilty of harassment, and redaction of the names of the institutions where the abuse occurred—effectively preventing the Committee from understanding if NIH continues to fund work performed by substantiated abusers at other institutions—a practice known as “pass the harasser.”   April 16, 2024 : E&C Republicans Expand Investigation into Sexual Harassment at NIH to now Include Review of HHS Office of Civil Rights Compliance Role  May 9, 2024 : E&C Republicans ask Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra to provide the Committee with the legal basis requiring HHS to redact or hide the names of researchers determined to have committed sexual misconduct. 



May 24, 2024
Press Release

E&C Leaders to ODNI: What Does the U.S. Intel Community Know About CCP-Linked Security Breach at Canadian High-Containment Lab

Washington, D.C. — In a new letter to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA) have asked for a briefing regarding a Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) report that a high security lab in Canada was infiltrated by Chinese scientists connected to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). BACKGROUND : Recently disclosed information from Canada provides additional insight into the Wuhan Institute of Virology's (WIV) interests and activities in the months leading up to the pandemic. In Canada, it was revealed that Canada's highest security lab (where Ebola and coronaviruses are studied) was infiltrated by Chinese scientists receiving secret payments from China’s military. This information was revealed in a report from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) in February 2024, following a two-year investigation. Two scientists at Canada’s high-security infectious disease laboratory—Xiangguo Qiu and Keding Cheng—provided confidential scientific information to China and were fired in 2021 after a probe concluded Dr. Qiu posed “a realistic and credible threat to Canada’s economic security” and it was discovered they engaged in clandestine meetings with Chinese officials. CSIS discovered Dr. Qiu had applied for, and likely received, a position under China’s Thousand Talents Program and that her position came through the WIV. According to CSIS, Dr. Qiu, who worked at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, lied when confronted about her actions, making “blanket denials” and “half-truths, and personally benefited from the arrangement,” noting that she repeatedly lied to the CSIS and “refused to admit to any involvement in various PRC [People’s Republic of China] programs.” In a January 2021 letter recommending that Dr. Qiu’s security clearance be revoked, CSIS stated: “The Service assess that Ms. Qiu developed deep, cooperative relationships with a variety of People’s Republic of China institutions and has intentionally transferred scientific knowledge and materials to China in order to benefit the PRC government.” The two infectious-disease scientists were escorted out of the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg in July 2019, and later had their security clearances revoked. They were fired in January 2021. Their whereabouts are not known. Of particular concern is that Dr. Qiu covertly and without authorization provided the Ebola genetic sequence, intellectual property related to research of Ebola, and possibly other pathogens to China. Others informed CSIS that Dr. Qiu and her husband used Gmail accounts extensively, rather than her government of Canada emails. This would appear to be a good source of communications between these spy-scientists in Canada and Wuhan and/or the Chinese military. CSIS found an application from her to one of China’s talent programs that said she would work for the WIV for at least two months every year. As part of her enrollment, CSIS said, Dr. Qiu committed to “building the People’s Republic of China’s biosecurity platform for new and potent infectious disease research.” The CSIS investigation found Dr. Qiu led a project at the WIV that would assess cross-species infection and pathogenic risks of filoviruses, work that CSIS said suggests “gain-of-function studies were possibly to take place.” CSIS also noted Dr. Qiu, who headed the vaccine development and antiviral therapies section at the Winnipeg lab, collaborated on scientific papers with Chinese military researchers, including Major-General Chen Wei, a high-ranking officer in the People’s Liberation Army. In a report, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) found Dr. Qiu lied about an October 2018 trip to China that she had said was a personal vacation, but later acknowledged after being presented with contradictory evidence that the trip was paid for by the WIV and she met the WIV’s director during the visit. CLICK HERE to read the full letter.



May 23, 2024
Press Release

E&C, E&W Republicans Press HHS Secretary Becerra on Preventing Civil Rights Violations at Universities Receiving NIH Grants

Inquiry Part of House-Wide Effort to Combat Rise of Antisemitism on College Campuses Washington, D.C. — In a new letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, House Energy and Commerce Committee (E&C) Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), E&C Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and E&C Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffth (R-VA), along with House Education and the Workforce Committee (E&W) Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and E&W Subcommittee on Higher Education & Workforce Development Chair Burgess Owens (R-UT), raised concerns over how HHS is ensuring that research universities are preventing harassment and discrimination—particularly against individuals of Jewish faith and heritage. The Chairs note in their letter that colleges or universities that violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 can ultimately lose Federal funding.   The investigation comes as part of Speaker Mike Johnson’s (R-LA) House-wide effort to crack down on antisemitism on college campuses.  KEY LETTER EXCERPT :  “We are troubled by the fact that colleges and universities that are recipients of massive amounts of Federal research grants from NIH are actively fostering antisemitism on campus and failing to protect Jewish students, faculty, and support staff. Failing to comply with basic safety protections for members of their communities, no matter the cause, may be grounds for disqualification of universities and colleges from receiving Federal funds. Congress has an obligation to ensure compliance with Title VI. If Congress determines an institution of higher education is in violation, we may consider rescinding research and development funds previously appropriated.”  BACKGROUND :  Starting in April 2024, antisemitic, and at times violent, protests broke out across campuses at several prominent universities—including Columbia University, the University of Southern California (USC), the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), George Washington University (GWU), Harvard University, and Yale University—resulting in unsafe learning and research environments for students, faculty, and staff, especially for those of Jewish faith and heritage.     Beginning on April 17, 2024, an encampment sprung up on Columbia University’s campus with hundreds of protestors and tents.   Protestors vandalized the campus—including residence halls—with banners and signs containing antisemitic sentiments and even support for the terrorist organization Hamas.  Despite over 100 arrests by police, the protests progressed to the occupation of a campus building and physical attacks on Jewish students—leading campus officials to move some classes online.  Professors at Columbia University have openly made antisemitic and even pro-Hamas statements, adding to the harassment of Jewish students.   A prominent rabbi at Columbia University also warned Jewish students to remain off-campus due to fears that the university and New York City police could not keep students safe.   Jewish students on campus have expressed concerns over their safety on campus and the mental and psychological toll the hostile environment is taking on their ability to work and learn.  Columbia University—which across its campuses received more than $682 million in grants from NIH in fiscal year 2023—is just the tip of the iceberg as similar events are spreading to other colleges and universities.   USC—which received more than $358 million in NIH funding in fiscal year 2023—is also overrun with students, faculty, and other anti-Israel protests that led the university to cancel its graduation ceremony out of safety concerns.   A protestor at USC was charged with assault with a deadly weapon—showing the threatening and intimidating nature of these protests. UCLA—which received more than $580 million in NIH grants in fiscal year 2023—is yet another example of the impact these actions have on the ability of students—particularly Jewish students—to learn. Protesters at UCLA have blocked off sections of the campus, refusing access to Jewish students seeking to attend their classes.  According to a phone call with UCLA police, the directive from UCLA was to not interfere with the protestors.  Just a few blocks from the White House at GWU—which received more than $73 million in grants from NIH in fiscal year 2023—encampments spread beyond the campus onto public streets, and for weeks no action was taken to clear the encampments.  At both Yale University—which received more than $621 million in grants from NIH in fiscal year 2023—and Harvard University—which received more than $400 million across its campuses in grants from NIH in fiscal year 2023—concerns about antisemitism circulated even before the protests erupted. Dozens of protestors were arrested after setting up an encampment at Yale University and parts of Harvard University have been closed, with classes held remotely in response to hundreds of protestors gathering on campus.  Several lawsuits have been filed against these universities alleging violations of civil rights protections and failure to provide a safe environment, and the U.S. Department of Education has opened investigations into several colleges and universities—including Columbia University—for potential civil rights violations.  According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), colleges and universities are prohibited from discriminating based on a variety of categories—including national origin. These laws also protect students who are, or are perceived to be, members of a religious group—including those of Jewish faith. A college or university is in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 if: 1) there is harassing conduct on the basis of race, color, or national origin that is sufficiently serious as to limit or deny a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the educational program (i.e., creates a hostile environment); 2) a responsible employee of the school knew, or should have known, about the harassment; and 3) the school failed to take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the harassment, eliminate the hostile environment, prevent the harassment from reoccurring, and as appropriate, remedy its effects.  According to NIH’s Grant Policy Statement, any institution receiving Federal funds must assure work environments are free of discriminatory harassment and are safe and conducive to high-quality work.  HHS’s OCR is responsible for ensuring that institutions that receive Federal financial assistance comply with Title VI as well as other civil rights laws.   Colleges or universities that violate Title VI can ultimately lose Federal funding.   CLICK HERE to read the full letter.



May 23, 2024
Press Release

E&C Republicans to NIH: Is Agency Recovering All Misused Taxpayer Dollars?

Washington, D.C. — In a letter to National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Monica Bertagnolli, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA) write regarding their investigation into how NIH recovers misused funds from recipient institutions.  KEY LETTER EXCERPT :  “While NIH funding has resulted in significant advances in science and aided in medical breakthroughs, it is also susceptible to fraud and other misconduct. With more than $35 billion in extramural grants awarded in fiscal year 2023 alone, it is essential that the NIH ensures grant funds are used appropriately and identifies and recovers any misused or abused funds.”  BACKGROUND :  The NIH and its institutes and centers may also become aware of financial misuse or fraud through allegations and complaints made by colleagues at the recipient institution, whistleblowers, or even anonymous complaints. Between fiscal years 2013 and 2022, the NIH received an increasing number of allegations of grant fraud—such as embezzlement and theft of funds—totaling more than 200 allegations.  Several public reports have uncovered substantiated cases of misuse of funding provided by the NIH—including findings that researchers at both Harvard University and Scripps Research Institute improperly charged or overcharged the NIH for time researchers spent on grant activities, leading to over $1.3 million and $10 million being refunded to the NIH respectively.  During the same period, the NIH also received more than 1,000 allegations of research misconduct.   The ORI’s website summarizes nearly 30 cases of substantiated research misconduct—including falsification, fabrication, or plagiarism of data or findings supported by NIH-funded research—since 2018.   These cases involve hundreds of millions of dollars, and it is unknown how much of that funding was used specifically by the person(s) found to have participated in the misconduct.   There are only a handful of public cases in which the NIH has managed to recover some funds from institutions found to have failed to protect the integrity of NIH funding.   For example, in 2019, Duke University agreed to repay $112.5 million to resolve allegations that applications and progress reports submitted to the federal government—including the NIH—contained falsified research.  CLICK HERE to read the full letter. 



May 23, 2024
Press Release

E&C Republicans Investigate Whether CMS CLIA Accreditation Contains Adequate National Security Safeguards

Washington, D.C. — In a new letter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA) are seeking answers as to whether the agency adequately safeguards Clinical Laboratory Improvements Amendments (CLIA) lab accreditation from national security concerns.  The Members are particularly concerned with national security concerns related to the Chinese military and the unethical use of human beings in research studies by entities of concern in China.  BACKGROUND :  Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) is a firm based in Shenzhen used by the Chinese government to build and operate the China National GeneBank, “a vast and growing government-owned repository that includes genetic data drawn from millions of people around the world.”  The Department of Defense in 2022 officially listed BGI as one of several “Chinese military companies” operating in the United States, and a 2021 U.S. intelligence assessment linked the company to the Beijing-directed global effort to obtain even more human DNA, including from the United States.  On March 6, 2023, the Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security added BGI Tech Solutions (Hongkong) Co. Ltd., to the “Entity List,” which identifies entities for which there is reasonable cause to believe, based on specific and articulable facts, that the entities have been involved, are involved, or pose a significant risk of being or becoming involved in activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.  It was added to the entity list “based upon information that indicates their collection and analysis of genetic data poses a significant risk of contributing to monitoring and surveillance by the government of China, which has been utilized in the repression of ethnic minorities in China. Information also indicates that the actions of these entities concerning the collection and analysis of genetic data present a significant risk of diversion to China’s military programs.”  CMS accredited a laboratory owned by BGI in 2017-2019. It then provided a CLIA accreditation to an entity called BGI Tech Solutions (Hongkong) Co. Ltd., effective September 8, 2023, with an expiration date of September 7, 2025, and with the same address and the same point of contact listed in the previous BGI CLIA lab accreditation.  CLICK HERE to read the letter. 



May 22, 2024
Press Release

E&C Republicans Press HHS Secretary Becerra for Scientific Literature Used to Justify Irreversible Gender Transition Procedures for Children

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA) wrote to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra asking for a briefing and information on what evidenced-based scientific and pediatric medical literature the department relies upon to promote gender transition procedures for children. KEY LETTER EXCERPT :  “Officials at HHS contend that sex reassignment procedures on minors are unanimously accepted medical practice, despite a growing body of research from European medical experts and authorities warning otherwise. According to a recent HHS production in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), it seems HHS’s position rests entirely on a two-page publicly available brochure advocating for such drastic, life-altering procedures on children. The Committee seeks information to better understand the body of medical information HHS has consulted to establish its policy promoting sex reassignment for children.”  [...] “All of HHS’s medical treatment recommendations, especially medical treatment recommendations for children, should be based on rigorous and well-established research that has definitively illustrated the long-term benefits of performing such procedures. Therefore, it is puzzling that HHS actively advocates for off-label use of puberty blockers without justification—such as substantial evidence gathered through a randomized controlled trial. In doing so, HHS is effectively advocating for unregulated medical experimentation on children.”  BACKGROUND :  Under the Biden administration, HHS has advocated for sex reassignment procedures, including the use of serum puberty blockers.    These are chemical hormonal suppressants that have a history of predominantly being used to treat U.S. children experiencing precocious puberty (i.e., the early onset of puberty affecting about 1% of U.S. children); they also have been used on sex-offenders and are known to stunt normal childhood development for children unaffected by precocious puberty.    Contrary to HHS’s proclamation that “there is no argument among medical professionals,” a substantial number of medical experts from around the world have publicly denounced sex transition procedures on minors as irresponsible, including a July 2023, letter signed by clinicians and researchers published in the Wall Street Journal.  On March 12, 2024, the National Health Service (NHS) of England announced it will no longer widely allow puberty blockers to be administered to children.    A United Kingdom court noted the obvious about administering puberty blocking chemicals onto children: “[i]t is highly unlikely that a child aged 13 or under would be competent to give consent to the administration of puberty blockers. It is doubtful that a child aged 14 or 15 could understand and weigh the long-term risks and consequences of the administration of puberty blockers.”  Several European countries have restricted “sex change surgeries, hormones, and puberty blockers for children.”   In Finland, Dr. Riittakerttu Kaltiala, a pediatrician specializing in gender medicine reportedly noted , “using a child’s preferred name and pronouns—is ‘not a neutral act’ but rather one that can solidify what is otherwise likely to be a passing phase into a more permanent state of mind, or ‘identity,’ and put the minor on a path to drugs and surgeries.”  CLICK HERE to read the full letter.



May 16, 2024
Press Release

Bicameral Republican Committee Leaders Press Secretary Blinken for Clarity on Climate Policy Leadership Structure

Washington, D.C. — In a new letter, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-TX), Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Jim Risch (R-ID), and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) are pressing Secretary of State Antony Blinken to clarify the leadership structure of the Biden administration as it sets climate policy on the international stage.  BACKGROUND :  In January 2024, the White House announced that Secretary John Kerry would be leaving the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate (SPEC) role and that John Podesta would “continue to lead […] global climate efforts” by assuming the role of Senior Advisor to the President for International Climate Policy  Rather than nominate Mr. Podesta to the SPEC role, which would require confirmation with the advice and consent of the Senate under legislation signed into law in 2021, President Biden appointed Mr. Podesta to a new position based in the White House that appears to have striking similarities to the SPEC role previously held by Secretary Kerry.  As the Republican leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee described in a March 5, 2024, letter to President Biden, the administration appears to be deliberately evading congressional oversight of its international climate policy by appointing Mr. Podesta to an advisory position in the White House.  The response from the White House Counsel’s office to the Committees stated, “On January 31, 2024, the White House announced President Biden’s appointment of Mr. Podesta to serve as Senior Advisor to the President for International Climate Policy. Mr. Podesta now leads interagency coordination of the Administration’s international climate policy agenda.”  It also stated, “Mr. Podesta’s role is not a replacement for SPEC, and the State Department will continue to lead international climate diplomacy, including negotiations, for the United States.”  Despite the White House’s assertion that Mr. Podesta would coordinate “interagency” efforts, he has met with foreign leaders on at least two occasions since assuming his new position.  KEY EXCERPT :  “Mr. Podesta’s coordination with the SPEC office and international representation of the United States in meetings with foreign leaders to discuss international climate policy appear to far exceed the characterization of Mr. Podesta’s role in the initial response to the Committees as merely leading ‘interagency coordination’ for the administration’s international climate policy.  “In light of this apparent overlap of duties between what Secretary Kerry undertook as the SPEC and what Mr. Podesta is now undertaking as a ‘Senior Advisor,’ we request information on the roles and responsibilities of the SPEC and the Senior Advisor to the President for International Climate Policy, as well as information on ongoing or planned coordination between these two entities.”  CLICK HERE to read the full letter. 



May 14, 2024
Letter

E&C Republican Leaders Press Biden EPA for Answers About Grants Awarded to Political Allies

Washington, D.C. — In a new letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Reagan, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA), and Subcommittee on Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Materials Chair Buddy Carter (R-GA), on behalf of the Oversight and Environment Subcommittee Republicans, are pressing for answers about the recently-awarded Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) grants.  KEY LETTER EXCERPTS :  “As you know, the Committee has questioned how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) planned to distribute the $20 billion available to selected recipients under the new GGRF program, including the $14 billion for the National Clean Investment Fund (NCIF). Specifically, the Committee cited warnings that the EPA could use these large awards to subsidize favored organizations. At a January 30, 2024, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing, Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers highlighted examples of former Biden administration officials and Democratic campaign staff in leadership roles of organizations vying for NCIF funding. Predictably, the EPA’s April 4, 2024, announcement of NCIF recipients confirmed our fears that this program would funnel taxpayer dollars to political allies.” [...] “Other individuals with ties to Democratic politics also lead organizations partnering with these recipients. While the EPA insists it had ethics rules and a fair competition policy in place, doling out billions of dollars to organizations led by politically connected individuals undermines public trust in the legitimacy of the federal financial awards process. It also furthers the concern that this program was created as an excuse to hand out funding to political allies.” The Chairs cited more than a dozen examples of politically connected leaders of organizations to which EPA plans to distribute billions of taxpayer dollars, and have requested a list of all of the nearly two dozen stakeholder meetings the EPA held in designing the program, including the dates, names of the individuals and organizations participating as well as any related minutes or memoranda by May 28, 2024. CLICK HERE to read the full letter. 



May 9, 2024
Press Release

E&C Republicans to HHS Secretary: What Law Requires You to Hide Sexual Abusers?

Secretary Becerra’s Extreme Legal Position Prioritizes Protecting Substantiated Abusers Over Victims Washington, D.C. — In a new letter , House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA), and Representative August Pfluger (R-TX) asked Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra to provide the Committee with the legal basis requiring HHS to redact or hide the names of researchers determined to have committed sexual misconduct.  The letter comes following Secretary Becerra’s appearance before the Subcommittee on Health during which he claimed he could not release the names of individuals determined to have committed sexual harassment to Congress because of legal prohibitions. The Members requested that Secretary Becerra provide the Committee with the legal basis for HHS’s decision to redact the names of abusers who have substantiated findings of sexual harassment or abuse by April 30, 2024.  CLICK HERE to read the letter.  BACKGROUND :  The Committee first launched an investigation into the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) handling of sexual harassment at grantee institutions in August 2021.   In October 2023, the Committee expanded its inquiry to include complaints involving NIH scientists.   After NIH’s failure to comply, Chair Rodgers subpoenaed NIH Director Monica Bertagnolli to produce documents in February of 2024.  Later that month, HHS responded on behalf of NIH to offer a rolling in camera document review to the Committee. Documents presented in the review have been highly redacted, including the redaction of the names of individuals convicted of criminal offenses, public news articles about individuals who have been found guilty of harassment, and redaction of the names of the institutions where the abuse occurred—preventing the Committee from understanding if NIH continues to fund work performed by substantiated abusers at other institutions—a practice known as “pass the harasser.”  FULL TIMELINE :  August 10, 2021 : E&C Republican Leaders Question NIH’s Handling of Sexual Harassment Complaints   August 11, 2022 : E&C Republican Leaders follow up with NIH on Insufficient Response to its Letter on the NIH’s handling of Sexual Harassment   November 30, 2022 : E&C Republicans to NIH: Turn Over Previously Requested Information Ahead of New Congress   March 14, 2023 : E&C Republicans Press NIH for Information on Handling of Sexual Harassment Complaints   October 6, 2023 : E&C Republicans Signal Intent to Issue Subpoenas to Obtain Information on NIH’s Handling of Sexual Harassment if Questions Go Unanswered   January 26, 2024 : Chair Rogers notifies NIH of Imminent Subpoecana   February 5, 2024 : Chair Rodgers Subpoenas NIH for Documents Related to Investigation into Sexual Harassment at NIH and NIH Grantee Institutions  February 20, 2024: HHS Responds on behalf of NIH to offer a rolling in camera document review to the Committee. Documents produced in the review have been highly redacted, including the redaction of the names of individuals convicted of criminal offenses, public news articles about individuals who have been found guilty of harassment, and redaction of the names of the institutions where the abuse occurred—effectively preventing the Committee from understanding if NIH continues to fund work performed by substantiated abusers at other institutions—a practice known as “pass the harasser.”  April 16, 2024 : E&C Republicans Expand Investigation into Sexual Harassment at NIH to now Include Review of HHS Office of Civil Rights Compliance Role  WHISTLEBLOWERS:    The Committee is seeking whistleblowers with knowledge of sexual harassment at the NIH or NIH grantee institutions, as well as those with knowledge of how the NIH handles such complaints.   The right for public employees to communicate with Congress, in their private capacities, is established in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In addition, various U.S. laws prohibit retaliation against whistleblowers for providing information to Congress. However, individuals still take serious risks when they engage in whistleblowing activity.   To better protect your communications, do not contact the Committee using work resources, work contact information, or while you are working . Further, consider consulting an attorney experienced in representing whistleblowers before you make a disclosure.   Do not submit classified information or other information barred from release through this form or by email. Unauthorized handling of classified information could result in criminal prosecution.   The Committee respects your need to remain confidential and will use your contact information only to follow up with you regarding your submission. You may submit a disclosure anonymously. However, please be aware that anonymous disclosures may limit the Committee’s ability to respond to the information that you provide.   Individuals with information about harassment at the NIH may contact the Committee via email at:   ReportNIHAbuse@mail.house.gov    Individuals with information about harassment at institutions that receive NIH grants may contact the Committee via email at:   ReportNIHGranteeAbuse@mail.house.gov    Additional resources can be found HERE .