Letter - Oversight and Investigations Updates

E&C Republicans Press NIH for Information on Handling of Sexual Harassment Complaints

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) sent a letter today to Dr. Lawrence Tabak, the senior official who is performing the duties of Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This inquiry follows up an August 2022 letter to NIH regarding its handling of sexual harassment complaints.  KEY EXCERPT:   “ NIH’s own statistics show a significant problem with more than 300 cases related to harassment since 2018. That also represents hundreds of women who are being bullied or threatened.”  […]  “All the more troubling is the fact that recent independent surveys have found top institutions and major NIH grant recipients with a high number of reported instances of sexual misconduct. In 2015, the Association of American Universities (AAU) conducted a campus survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct. This survey included over 150,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students at 27 universities that participated. For example, Yale University had the highest rates of female sexual assault with the exception of two other universities, which both boast a significantly larger student body population. Further, in 2019, AAU conducted a follow up Campus Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct survey and found that sexual assaults at Yale had actually increased.  “ Such findings and high-profile cases raise concerns about possible non-compliance with Federal laws applicable to NIH funding, including Title IX. As you know, Yale has been among the largest recipients of Federal taxpayer funding in the form of research grants. During the past ten years, for example, Yale has received approximately 9,584 awards to faculty and professors totaling around $4.3 billion from NIH alone. Each of these grants were conditioned on Yale’s full compliance with applicable Federal laws such as Title IX. We could cite several other major grantee institutions for similar issues.   “Based on the massive number of NIH grants and billions of Federal funds benefitting or inuring to the benefit of Yale and ongoing inquiries, we are concerned that Yale and other institutions may not have complied with their responsibilities under Title IX as a recipient of Federal funds. Compliance with Title IX is more than a mere formality—it is a prerequisite for receipt of Federal funds. Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) asserts that complying with research grant requirements is a significant priority.”  The Chairs asked for the information, including responses to the following questions, by March 28, 2023:  Upon receipt of a harassment complaint, what is the NIH process for requesting more information from grantees?  Does the NIH ask different questions if special populations (children) are involved in the complaint?  Does the NIH ever talk to the alleged victim of harassment, not just the grantee institution?  How many complaints were sent directly to the NIH Director or Acting NIH Director since January 1, 2019? How many of these complaints were referred to the OER? If there were any complaints not referred to OER, why not?  NIH indicated it was working with HHS Office of Civil Rights in September 2020. What was the outcome of these interactions? How many targets of discrimination or retaliation have been contacted as a result? Were NIH investigations or institutional Title IX investigations (or others) reviewed? Please provide specifics.  CLICK HERE to read the full letter. 

E&C Committee Presses NIH for Information into Misallocated Funds and Grants that May Harm Agency Regulations

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) today, in a letter to Dr. Lawrence Tabak, the senior official who is performing the duties of Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) requested information from the NIH regarding grants that have been misallocated or grants with low or de minimis value that have the potential to harm the Institutes’ reputation.  KEY EXCERPT:   “We are interested in learning more about how, and to what extent, institutes and centers are implementing audit recommendations related to misallocated funds.”  […]  “In addition, the NIH apparently has a significant number of grants of low or de minimis value ($1,000 or less) that have been awarded. Based on a Majority Committee staff search of the NIH Reporter system, there are 292 grants in this low dollar category ($1,000 or less).”  […]  “ These low dollar awards have the effect of establishing a relationship between an entity and NIH but with no apparent research value associated with the award itself. It is our understanding from reviewing the terms of NIH grant documents that, unless the funds are drawn, the NIH protections, reporting requirements, and activity limitations do not apply to the grantee. So, the recipient appears to gain the benefit from its association with the NIH without the burden of the requirements. This may pose a risk to NIH, both in reputation and compliance. ”  The Chairs specifically asked for responses to the following questions by March 27, 2023: Since January 1, 2015, how many audits have been conducted by the NIH Office of Management Assessment (OMA)?  Since January 1, 2015, how many audits have been conducted by OMA and identified as a misallocation of funds in an award?  Since January 1, 2015, how many referrals of audit findings have been made by OMA to institutes and centers? Please specify the number and nature of the audit findings for each institute and center.  What are the potential actions that an institute or center can take on an audit finding?  What was the total amount of funds that OMA found in which NIH was entitled to recovery?  Out of that total amount of funds that OMA found in which NIH was entitled to recovery, what was the total amount of funds actually recovered?  How frequently are awards audited, and how is the frequency determined?  How many recommendations did OMA make to the institutes and centers, and how many recommendations were implemented?  Please produce the results of searching for NIH grants $1,000 or less in the eRA Commons system.  Has OMA conducted its own search of low value NIH grants? If so, when and why? What were the results?  How many low dollar grants are currently active? What is the purpose of low dollar grants?  Are all the U.S. entities listed as low dollar grant recipients owned and controlled by U.S. persons?  Why are there low dollar grants? Is it an end around some law, regulation, or Congressional requirement? Is it some administrative mechanism created to enable some activity?  What benefit to NIH is there from low dollar grants? Are there any trends to suggest a lack of impartiality on the part of awards? Is this process being exploited and by whom (perhaps nation states)?  What is the risk to NIH in such affiliations if in fact awardees are not beholden to the grants policy statement unless they draw the funds?  Please identify the sub-awardees and explain why there is a sub-awardee on such a small award.  CLICK HERE to read the full letter. 

E&C Committee Probes NIH for Failing to Convene Scientific Management Review Board

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) today, in a letter to Dr. Lawrence Tabak, the senior official who is performing the duties of Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), requested information about the NIH’s failure to convene the Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB) as required under the NIH Reform Act of 2006. The Board advises the NIH on the most effective organizational structure for NIH.  KEY EXCERPT:   “According to a STAT review of agency records, the SMRB, tasked with making the NIH more efficient and more effective, 'mysteriously stopped meeting seven years ago' and SMRB members do not know why. As noted by STAT, 'the de facto disappearance of the NIH’s Scientific Management Review Board, critics charge, is emblematic of the agency’s broader reluctance to accept criticism and to modernize. Some science policy experts have argued lately that the NIH operates too slowly, funds research too conservatively, and labors under a bureaucratic structure that is cumbersome and unwieldy.' Further, by not convening the SMRB, the NIH is missing opportunities to address profound scientific management concerns such as what actions NIH is taking, or needs to take, to increase support for young researchers in the NIH intramural program.  “ By not convening the SMRB for the last seven years, the NIH has failed to comply with the NIH Reform Act of 2006. This law created the SMRB to provide advice on the use of organizational authorities granted to the NIH, and formally and publicly to review NIH’s organizational structure at least once every seven years. The law set out time frames for the Director to act on such recommendations and provide for review by Congress. As required by the Reform Act, SMRB has conducted public reviews of NIH’s organizational structure and processes from 2010 to 2015 but has not been convened since 2015.  “We note from the Board’s chart posted on the NIH website, that the estimated annual cost for operating the Board, including compensation and travel expenses for members, but excluding staff support, is $167,851. The estimate of annual person-years of staff support required is 2.2 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs), at an approximate annual cost of $321,050. The total annual cost of the Board is $488,901. Without convening the SMRB as was done from 2010 to 2015, we are concerned that the NIH has diverted this funding reserved for operating and supporting the SMRB to other purposes.”   The Chairs specifically requested the following information by March 27, 2023: Please explain why the NIH has failed to convene the SMRB since 2015. Who decided to stop convening the SMRB? When was this decision made? If the decision is in writing, please provide. If the decision is not in writing, why not?  Since the NIH has discontinued convening this board since 2015, how has the NIH used the $488,901 per year or $2,933,406 over six years?    Will the NIH return to the U.S. Treasury the more than $2.9 million in funding that was not used for operating and supporting the SMRB?   Please name the NIH staff who were originally designated to be responsible for staff support of the SMRB. What have these designated staff been working on since 2015 instead of supporting the SMRB?  Will the NIH reconvene the SMRB, and if so, when?  Can you provide a list of all recommendations voted on by the SMRB and the votes with respect to each recommendation?  For those recommendations that were supported by the SMRB, please provide the status of implementation of those recommendations.  CLICK HERE to read the full letter. 

E&C Republicans Demand Answers from Biden Administration on Migrant Children Exploitation

Letter Comes on the Heels of Explosive New Reporting on Child Work Exploitation Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA), and Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY) wrote to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra to demand accountability for the safety of migrant children who are coming to our country at an alarmingly high rate. The letter follows an explosive New York Times report titled, “Alone and Exploited, Migrant Children Work Brutal Jobs Across the U.S.” The members have also provided a formal notice for HHS to preserve all existing and future records and materials—including via text messages and other apps on government and personal devices—related to the matter.  “It’s unconscionable that innocent children are being exploited because of the Biden administration’s negligence and open-border agenda, which will only get worse if he lifts Title 42. What the president started with his border crisis is now a human rights crisis for unaccompanied minors. This cannot continue. The Biden administration must be held accountable for the cruel conditions, danger, and despair that these children have experienced,” the Members said.   KEY LETTER EXCERPTS :   The number of unaccompanied children referred to ORR has skyrocketed from a low of 15,381 in fiscal year 2020 to 122,731 in fiscal year 2021 and 128,904 in fiscal year 2022. At the same time, the numbers of unaccompanied children were skyrocketing, the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) capacity to care for children diminished.  […]  The HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently published findings related to the operation of the EIS at Fort Bliss, the largest of the EIS facilities, concluding that case managers lacked sufficient child welfare training and ineffectively coordinated reuniting children with parents/sponsors; one interviewee informed the OIG there was a “‘pervasive sense of despair’ among children at the facility who reportedly experienced distress, anxiety, and in some cases, panic attacks.” The OIG reported on instances of children physically harming themselves due to case manager negligence. […]  According to the OIG, ORR supervisors grew concerned policy changes prioritized fast tracking release of unaccompanied children to sponsors quickly, rather than vetting sponsors and protecting “children from risks such as trafficking and exploitation.” Supervisors also reported to the OIG that inexperienced ORR case managers “failed to consider children’s significant history of abuse and neglect or whether sex offenders resided in the potential sponsor’s household. ” Recent reporting by the New York Times found that over the last two years, one month after placing children with an adult, HHS “could not reach more than 85,000 children” and the “agency lost immediate contact with a third of migrant children.” Additionally, the New York Times reported that managers at ORR were “worried that labor trafficking was increasing and ... the office had become ‘one that rewards individuals for making quick releases, and not one that rewards individuals for preventing unsafe releases.’" The Members are demanding a briefing from HHS by March 19, 2023, on the following topics, including:  What retroactive screening efforts (e.g., searches of sex offender registry, criminal records, etc.) were conducted after the OIG informed ORR about its findings at Fort Bliss to ensure children were not released to households with unsafe sponsors/individuals residing there?  From fiscal year 2021 to the present, which ORR facilities waived sponsor vetting procedures?  From fiscal year 2021 to the present, how many total children under ORR custody were removed from the household they were originally released to?  From fiscal year 2021 to the present, the total amount of funds spent by HHS on ORR facilities, contractors and placement efforts?  Provide Committee with internal documents created in fiscal year 2021 to the present (e.g., emails, texts, reports, memos, etc.) regarding waiving sponsor vetting procedures.  Provide Committee with internal documents created in fiscal year 2021 to the present (e.g., emails, texts, reports, memos, etc.) regarding ORR employees views on the ORR sponsor screening procedures.  CLICK HERE to read the letter. 

E&C Republicans Demand Accountability on Biden’s Massive Spending and Inflation Agenda

American People Deserve Full Accounting of Funds   Washington, D.C. —  House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy Rodgers (R-WA) and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA), along with the chairs of the subcommittee of jurisdiction, today wrote letters to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Energy (DOE), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), requesting a full accounting of how they’ve spent taxpayer dollars. KEY LETTER EXCERPT : “Over the past two years, under one-party, Democratic rule, Congress and the Biden administration have spent trillions of dollars across the federal government. Beginning with the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and most recently with the so-called Inflation Reduction Act (IRA),  Democrats have funneled an excessive amount of taxpayer dollars to advance their radical, progressive agenda and to benefit their political allies. The American people deserve a full, transparent, and regular accounting of the funds  that have been spent, where the funds have gone, who has benefited, and how much remains.”  The Chairs specifically requested funding information from: ARPA, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the CHIPS and Science Act, and the IRA, including but not limited to:  1. The total amount of funding from each Act that has been obligated to date. 2. A list of each financial award funded, in part or in full, by these laws, including the following information for each award: a.    All recipients for which funding has been expended. b.    All recipients for which funding has been obligated. c.     The amount of funding that has been obligated for each recipient. d.    A description of the project funded. e.    The type of award (i.e., grant, loan, etc.). 3. The number, job title, compensation, and duties of any employees, contractors, or consultants who have been hired or engaged using the funding, in whole or in part. 4. An accounting of the funds that have not yet been obligated. CLICK HERE  to read the letter from Chairs Rodgers and Griffith and Subcommittee on Energy, Climate, and Grid Security Chair Jeff Duncan (R-SC) to DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm regarding more the than $100 billion above annual appropriations and the more than 60 new programs created with little Congressional scrutiny of long-term taxpayer risks.  CLICK HERE  to read the letter from Chairs Rodgers and Griffith and Health Subcommittee Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY) to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra requesting information related to:  The IRA’s Implementation Fund designed to carry out the law’s drug pricing provisions  The Provider Relief Fund has had $178 billion appropriated into it  Vaccine Education Funding, which includes more than a billion dollars  Funding appropriated COVID-19 Vaccines, Therapeutics, Testing, and Supplies, which the Biden administration rerouted billions to other programs—like housing illegal immigrants at the border—before asking Congress for additional resources  CLICK HERE   to read the letter from Chairs Rodgers and Griffith and Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Chair Bob Latta (R-OH) to FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel requesting information related to:  $98 million to implement the Broadband DATA Act, as well as the status of the broadband map development   $450 million for the COVID-19 telehealth program $3.2 billion for the Emergency Broadband Benefit   $7.17 billion for the Emergency Connectivity Fund program  $14.2 billion for the Affordable Broadband Benefit  CLICK HERE   to read the letter from Chairs Rodgers, Griffith and Latta to NTIA Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Alan Davidson requesting information related to: $300 million for the Broadband Infrastructure Program  $3 billion for tribal broadband deployment  $285 million for the Connecting Minority Communities Program $42.45 billion for the Broadband, Equity, Accessibility, and Deployment (BEAD) Program $2.75 billion for digital equity grants $1 billion for middle mile infrastructure

Feb 23, 2023
Press Release

E&C GOP Chairs Lay Out Expectations for Biden Agency Cooperation

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Chair Bob Latta (R-OH), Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Subcommittee on Innovation, Data, and Commerce Chair Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Subcommittee on Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Materials Chair Bill Johnson (R-OH), and Subcommittee on Energy, Climate, and Grid Security Jeff Duncan (R-SC) wrote to the heads of the Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Department of Commerce laying out expectations for intergovernmental cooperation regarding oversight. As Chair Rodgers said in the full committee markup of Energy and Commerce’s Authorization and Oversight Plan for the 118th Congress, “We have a responsibility to conduct oversight to get answers on behalf of those we serve and to ensure accountability so the government is responsive to the American people.” The members outline the below seven principles for each agency or department to comply with Congressional requests and provide answers the American people deserve. 1. For all requests or questions, please reproduce the requests or questions presented in a written letter with the department or agency response. 2. In the spirit of comity and inter-branch accommodation, your department or agency should endeavor to cooperate as much as possible with committee oversight requests. If your department or agency has determined it will not voluntarily cooperate with the requests, please provide electronic written notice within two business days specifying which requests you are declining to cooperate with and the stated reasons for voluntary noncooperation. 3. Your department or agency should make a determination on whether certain requests cannot be fulfilled as presented. Provide electronic written notice within one business week of receipt of the request about such determinations, stating the reasons why. If there is an alternative approach that could address the Committee’s request, then such an alternative approach should be suggested in the interests of comity and inter-branch accommodation. 4. If the department or agency needs clarification about a Committee request, your staff should make good faith efforts to contact Committee staff for assistance as soon as possible. 5. We expect your department or agency to provide a written response to our oversight requests within two weeks of receipt of the letter. If the department or agency needs additional time to respond to Committee requests, your staff should make good faith efforts to contact Committee staff for assistance as soon as possible. 6. If your department or agency has determined that certain requested documents cannot be produced pursuant to a privilege or other legal basis, your department or agency should submit an index of the withheld documents and the privilege asserted within two business weeks of receipt of the request letter. 7. If your department has determined that a requested witness cannot be made available pursuant to a privilege or other legal basis, your department or agency should submit in writing an explanation of the privilege or other legal basis asserted within two business weeks of receipt of the request letter. CLICK HERE to view the letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. CLICK HERE to view the letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. CLICK HERE to view the letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan. CLICK HERE to view the letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

Chairs Rodgers, Griffith, and Guthrie Launch E&C’s 118th Congress COVID-19 Origins Investigation

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA), and Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY) today launched the committee’s investigation into the origins of COVID-19 for the 118th Congress. The members sent letters to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and EcoHealth Alliance for information and documents as well as formally noticing a preservation of documents related to research done at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).  “With more than a million American lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, fully examining all available evidence to have a clearer picture of the origins of COVID-19 is one of the greatest public health responsibilities of our lifetime. For the past two years, Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans have been pursuing an in-depth investigation into the early days of SARS-CoV-2 with an emphasis on the virus’ origins,” said Chairs Rodgers, Griffith, and Guthrie. “Despite severely inadequate cooperation to date from the NIH and EcoHealth, we expect greater responsiveness to our Republican majority—either voluntarily or through the Committee’s authority. As we learned in yesterday’s oversight hearing, the stakes are too high with the growing risks of future pandemics for our nation not to unite behind stronger efforts to investigate the origins of pandemics. We will continue to pursue the facts related to how NIH spends taxpayer dollars and to what extent it was involved in potentially dangerous research in a hostile nation within a lab that was not at an adequate biosafety level. Bringing the truth to light is crucial in our efforts to help restore public trust in our government institutions.”  The letters come in the lead up to a February 8, 2023, joint Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and Subcommittee on Health hearing titled: “ The Federal Response to COVID-19 ” at which Dr. Lawrence A. Tabak, D.D.S., PhD., Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director at the NIH, is confirmed to testify.  KEY NIH LETTER EXCERPT:   “The COVID-19 pandemic is a catastrophic biological incident resulting so far in the deaths of more than a million Americans and more than 6 million people worldwide. The threat of similar pandemics is increasing. As the Government Accountability Office (GAO) noted, globalization, climate change, and urbanization has increased the probability, intensity, and frequency of catastrophic biological incidents. A study in 2021 found a high probability of observing pandemics similar to COVID-19 (probability of experiencing it in one’s lifetime is 38 percent), which may double in coming decades. The global proliferation of high-containment laboratories has similarly increased the probability of a catastrophic biological incident caused by the escape of a pandemic pathogen. “  CLICK HERE to read the full letter to Dr. Tabak.  KEY ECOHEALTH ALLIANCE LETTER EXCERPT:   “As noted by the NIH and in EcoHealth’s correspondence with NIH, EcoHealth failed to obtain laboratory notebooks and electronic files of transgenic mice experiment(s) conducted by the WIV as a research activity supported by the NIH grant. This material failure violated the NIH grant terms and conditions. There is no evidence that the work from the experiment(s) was ever published. There is no substantiation of the experiment(s) other than the WIV’s assertions to EcoHealth that included inconsistent and incomplete data representations. Thus, there was no scientific work product produced for the American taxpayers who helped finance these efforts, and no useful information to support pandemic preparedness efforts. Further, EcoHealth's lack of monitoring of the WIV research in accordance with NIH grant terms presented additional biosafety risks, raising questions about the possibility that WIV biosafety lapses could have contributed to the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.”   CLICK HERE to read the full letter to EcoHealth Alliance President Dr. Peter Daszak.  CLICK HERE to read more about the Energy and Commerce Republicans COVID-19 origins investigation. 

Jan 18, 2023
Press Release

Chair Rodgers: GAO Gain-of-Function Research Report Affirms Our Concerns with HHS P3CO Framework

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) offered the following statement after the Government Accountability Office issued a report titled “ HHS Could Improve Oversight of Research Involving Enhanced Potential Pandemic Pathogens ,” which is commonly referred to as “gain-of-function" research.  “Today’s watchdog report affirms many of my concerns with the secretive HHS board that purportedly reviews risky research projects from federal agencies. So far, the risky research proposals of concern only appear to be funded by the National Institutes of Health, specifically by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The American public deserve to know to what extent their tax dollars are being used to fund pathogenic research that has the potential to cause a pandemic. Whether or not the U.S. government played any role—directly or indirectly—in the creation of COVID-19, our committee’s investigation is uncovering a host of issues that require more attention. Thankfully, we were able to enact some commonsense prohibitions regarding where and how this type of research is funded, but we will continue pushing for more accountability and oversight to start rebuilding public trust in these research agencies.”  KEY EXCERPT FROM GAO REPORT : By working with its funding agencies to identify and share non-sensitive information about how HHS, in coordination with its funding agencies, conducts reviews and makes funding recommendations, researchers, Congress, and the public would have greater assurance that departmental review provides meaningful and effective suggestions to address biosafety and biosecurity concerns about research involving enhanced potential pandemic pathogens. Moreover, doing so could enhance public confidence in the department’s oversight as well as ensure the agency’s goal to exemplify and promote the highest level of scientific integrity, public accountability, and social responsibility in the conduct of science.  Chair Rodgers, along with Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Morgan Griffith (R-VA) wrote to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xaiver Becerra in April of 2022, raising concerns on the “flawed and overly secretive review process of whether risky research for potential pandemic pathogens can be conducted safely and have a justifiable benefit.”  KEY LETTER EXCERPT : “Dr. Chris Hassell, the HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and the chair of the HHS P3CO review committee, briefed the committee staff twice during the summer of 2021. During the briefings, when asked about the identities of the members, Dr. Hassell did not provide the names of the members of the review group. However, he indicated which agencies or departments were represented on the HHS P3CO Review Committee. Dr. Hassell noted there were members from the NIH on the review committee, but he specifically pointed out that the NIH members were from the Office of the Director and not from any of the NIH institutes or centers that would be funding entities to avoid conflict-of-interest concerns.   “The minority committee staff requested that HHS provide the names and affiliations of all members of the HHS P3CO review committee. In response, HHS provided some of the names of the HHS P3CO review committee, but on a confidential basis because of personal security concerns.”  You can read the full letter here . 

E&C Republican Leaders Demand Briefing with TikTok About the Exploitation of Kids on the Platform

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee Republican Leader Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Republican Leader Bob Latta (R-OH), and Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Republican Leader Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) sent a letter to TikTok this week following reports over how the company has failed to address the sexual exploitation of kids on its platform. Excerpts and highlights from the  exclusive coverage  by Forbes: “‘TikTok has been incapable of rooting out the spate of TikTok accounts that are trading illegal child sexual content,’ four House lawmakers wrote Wednesday to TikTok’s chief, citing a November Forbes investigation that revealed how illicit private handles on the platform are hiding child abuse material in plain sight—posted using a setting that makes it visible only to the person logged in. “‘Equally troubling are the livestreams your company hosts that allow adult TikTok users to monetarily persuade children to perform sexually suggestive acts,’ the letter continued, citing a separate Forbes investigation, from April, into how adults use TikTok Live to exploit underage girls—by paying them to engage in provocative, potentially illegal behavior. “‘Considering that about half of all U.S. children use TikTok every day, our concerns enumerated above are paramount. … Therefore, we ask you [to] provide the Committee with a briefing as soon as possible, but no later than December 21,’ the memo concluded. It was led by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, the top Republican on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee who, along with her counterpart on House Oversight, opened an investigation into TikTok in July over China’s ability to access U.S. user data. Reps. Gus Bilirakis of Florida, Morgan Griffith of Virginia and Bob Latta of Ohio also signed onto the letter fired off Wednesday and shared exclusively with Forbes.” CLICK HERE  to read the full Forbes story. CLICK HERE  to read the full letter to TikTok.