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Capitol Correspondence - 09.22.20

HHS Officials Engage with Congressional Critics on COVID-19 and Media Expenses

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We are sharing two items below on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to keep our members informed on the political climate in which key policy-makers in the department are operating, including a follow-up on previous coverage.

From Politico Pro – HHS Secretary to Testify on COVID:

“Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar will testify in front of House Oversight’s select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis, the panel’s chairman announced this morning.

Democrats plan to ask Azar why the administration has failed to develop and implement a ‘science-based national strategy’ to contain Covid-19, said Rep. Jim Clyburn, the subcommittee chair.

[…]

A rare appearance: The Oct. 2 hearing will be the first time that Azar has appeared before Congress since February, Clyburn said.” [ANCOR note: while information on the hearing is not yet on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s website, please check back on the day of the hearing for any live video and links to testimony.]

From Politico Pulse – Seema Verma rebuts attacks on public relations spending:

“The CMS administrator defended her agency’s spending in her first extensive comments on the matter since last week’s report from congressional Democrats, dismissing a question about whether CMS covered her personal expenditures by paying for communications contractors.

‘There’s absolutely no evidence of that. The inspector general didn’t find that,’ Verma said on an episode of CHC radio at the 25-minute mark. ‘Everything we have done at CMS is to promote the CMS programs,’ she added, suggesting that reaching out to women’s publications for profiles was intended to reach women who make a disproportionate share of health care decisions.

Verma also dismissed the Democrats’ report as “political attack on public servants, which we would expect previous to an election.”

— PULSE’s note: Verma was also dismissive of the inspector general report released this summer, calling it cherry-picked and misleading, after the watchdog faulted CMS with mismanaging the contracts. But the jargon-filled IG report, which more narrowly examined the contracts’ legality, suddenly looks better in comparison with Democrats’ recent scathing report.”