Pallone & DeGette Highlight the Robust Oversight Conducted by the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee in 2019
As 2019 comes to an end, Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO) reviewed the Subcommittee’s oversight work of the last year. In total, the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee held 15 hearings and the Committee sent 150 letters to the Trump Administration, companies and other entities as part of Committee investigations.
“We’re conducting vigorous oversight of both the Trump Administration and large corporations in order to ensure Washington works again for the people not the special interests,” said Pallone and DeGette. “We’re holding the Trump Administration accountable for the cost of its culture of corruption on the American people and investigating companies that are undermining critical health care, environmental and consumer protections. The Subcommittee will continue its oversight of the Trump Administration and its important investigations in the new year.”
Demanding answers on the skyrocketing price of insulin:
- Held two-part hearing on the skyrocketing cost of insulin. During the first hearing with patient advocates we heard about the challenges of insulin affordability and the financial and health consequences on patients’ lives. And then, in the second hearing with manufacturers and pharmacy middlemen, the Subcommittee heard about why insulin prices are soaring and discussed potential solutions to lower costs for consumers. Committee leaders also sent oversight letters to pharmaceutical companies requesting documents and answers on the root causes of the rising costs.
Holding Trump Administration accountable for cruel family separation policy:
- Conducting an ongoing investigation into family separation including questioning key Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials on their role in implementing the policy and their chaotic efforts to reunify children with their families. The Subcommittee held two hearings, in February and in September, on the policy, the long-term effects on the children and whether the Administration is taking steps to dramatically improve care for the children in its custody.
Ongoing investigation into potential waste of taxpayer dollars at HHS:
- Investigating Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma’s use of millions of taxpayer dollars on GOP consultants. The Committee joined three other committees in requesting the Inspector General review Verma’s actions, which the Inspector General agreed to do in a letter to bicameral Committee leaders.
Holding Trump Administration accountable for sabotaging our nation’s health care system:
- In October, the Subcommittee held a hearing with CMS Administrator Verma to question her about the Trump Administration’s ongoing efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act, expand junk short-term insurance plans and impose illegal Medicaid work requirements. Also, demanded answers from HHS on Title X family planning services grants awarded in March. Committee leaders are concerned that the Trump Administration continues to place political ideology over the well-being of women and families across the nation. The Administration’s attacks on this program were also under the microscope at a hearing in June.
Examining issues related to the ongoing opioid epidemic:
- As part of the Committee’s ongoing oversight into the opioid epidemic, bipartisan Committee letters to 16 states asking how they are using federal funds to assist treatment and recovery efforts in response to the opioid crisis. The Subcommittee also held an oversight hearing to get an update from federal agencies on the government’s response efforts to combat fentanyl.
Investigating private equity firms’ role in surprise billing practices:
- Launched a bipartisan investigation into practices of private equity firms surrounding surprise billing. In letters to three firms, Committee leaders requested information and documents pertaining to the firms’ ownership of private physician staffing and emergency transportation companies, which research shows are a leading source of surprise medical billing.
Investigating e-cigarette manufacturers:
- Sent letters to the five dominate e-cigarette manufacturers requesting information on each of the companies’ research into the public health impacts of their products, marketing practices and role in the promotion of e-cigarette use by adolescents. The Subcommittee then held a hearing in September on the threat posed by e-cigarettes.
Protecting consumers from contaminated drugs:
- In June, bipartisan Committee leaders requested the Government Accountability Office (GAO) review FDA’s drug inspection program. Then, in December, the Subcommittee held a hearing on FDA’s foreign drug inspection program. Recent recalls and troubling news report raise concerns about the program, which could undermine the safety of some drugs.
Examining the Trump EPA’s efforts to undermine mercury protections:
- Held an Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on May 21 on a recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal that says limiting mercury and other air toxics from coal and oil-fired power plants is not “appropriate and necessary.” Mercury is one of the most toxic substances on the planet – and it can cause real harm to the brain, heart and other essential bodily systems.
Investigating EPA’s lack of enforcement measures:
- Grilled EPA on its stark enforcement record, demanding to know why it is conducting the fewest investigations of any EPA in recent times and relying on industry to voluntarily come forward with their violations. In June, the Committee brought together a bipartisan group of former EPA Administrators to hear precisely why the Trump EPA’s actions – and lack thereof – are so troubling for an agency whose work is based on science.
Demanding answers from EPA on dubious defenses of fuel economy rollback:
- Requested information, briefing materials and analysis related to EPA’s public defense of its proposed rollback of public health regulations limiting emissions from cars and trucks. The inquiry follows repeated requests and statements made by EPA Administrator Wheeler, including statements made to Congress, that plainly contradict data presented to him by EPA’s own experts.
Weeding out corruption in the Trump Administration’s EPA:
- Launched an investigation into the Utility Air Regulatory Group (UARG) – a secretive front group funded by utility companies and devoted to rolling back Clean Air Act regulations – and its relationship to William Wehrum, the then Assistant Administrator for the EPA Office of Air and Radiation, and David Harlow, the Office’s Chief Counsel. On May 10, in the face of this Congressional scrutiny, UARG announced that it was disbanding. Wehrum, EPA’s top air policy official, resigned shortly thereafter.
Demanding answers on EPA’s efforts to weaken the role of science:
- Demanded answers from EPA Administrator Wheeler on the Agency’s ongoing attempts to undermine and discredit the role of science. In October 2018, EPA disbanded the panel of independent science experts that typically supports the work of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC). Committee leaders are concerned that without sufficient scientific expertise, the CASAC will be unable to properly set the standards needed to protect Americans from harmful air pollutants.
Examining the Department of Energy’s growing environmental liabilities:
- Held an oversight hearing on the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Office of Environmental Management’s efforts to clean up the legacy nuclear waste sites remaining from the Cold War. DOE faces nearly $500 billion in environmental liabilities related to cleaning up these facilities, and Committee leaders question why liabilities continue to skyrocket even though the agency is investing more in cleanups.
Investigating potential unfair and deceptive practices in live event ticket industry:
- Launched a bipartisan investigation into practices in the live event ticketing industry. The Committee leaders address several concerning trends that disadvantage consumers, including high, hidden fees, speculative tickets that harm unknowing customers, and “white label” websites that may use practices that deceive consumers.