The split scenes at the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing and the Supreme Court ceremony honoring Ruth Bader Ginsburg – just a few blocks apart – were an impressive image in Washington.
Opening the hearing, Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the committee, called on Congress to begin planning the next pandemic, warning that experts say it could come as soon as possible next year. “We need to act now to stop the cycle of panic, neglect, panic,” he said.
Senator Patti Murray, the Senate Democrat on the Senate Health Committee, told Dr. Hahn, the FDA commissioner, and Dr. Redfield, director of the CDC, that he intended to question them about Mr. Trump̵
Senate hearing followed by a turmoil in the Federal Department of Health and Humanitarian Services, whose top spokesman Michael R. Caputo took medical leave last week after posting an unusual sound on Facebook Live in which he accused CDC scientists of rioting, promoted conspiracy theories and warned for armed rebellion.
Mr Caputo’s appearance on Facebook came after the revelation that he and his scientific adviser, Dr. Paul Alexander, had tried to put pressure on the agency to review or delay its weekly scientific reports. Since then, Dr. Alexander has left the department. Democrats will almost certainly use the hearing to question Dr. Redfield about these events.
Dr. Redfield is also likely to face questions about testing guidelines issued last month, which suggest that some people exposed to the virus should not be tested. Internal documents show that the guidelines were published on the CDC’s website despite strong objections from the agency’s scientists, and the agency reversed it last week.
Lawmakers are likely to question Dr. Hahn about the FDA’s plan to issue stricter guidelines for the urgent authorization of any new coronavirus vaccine, which would add a new layer of caution to the screening process, even when Mr. Trump insists the vaccine will be ready next month. The guidelines could be officially released this week if approved by the White House, and recommend that clinical trial data be reviewed by a panel of independent experts before the FDA takes action, according to several people familiar with the project.