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DeLauro Remarks at Bipartisan Congressional Coronavirus Briefing

February 28, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. — (February 28, 2020) Today, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, gave remarks at a bipartisan briefing on the federal response to the coronavirus with administration officials.  Below are DeLauro’s remarks:

Good morning, everyone. For this critical bipartisan briefing, we have administration officials with us to update the Congress on the status of the coronavirus outbreak. Congressman Cole and I are hosting this briefing because it is the Labor-HHS Subcommittee where most of the supplemental funding will come from. As a disclaimer—Congressman Cole and I did not select this room.

Cases are growing, as is public alarm. This is both domestically and internationally. And while understanding how quickly events are changing and daily new developments it is imperative that the American people and the Congress receive truthful information.

The U.S. government has responded to the COVID-19 outbreak with some aggressive measures. Significant travel restrictions. A mandatory 14-day quarantine for individuals returning to the U.S. from Hubei province. A redefinition of testing requirements.

We are dealing with the potential of a global pandemic. The World Health Organization has said this has reached a, quote, “decisive point.” Overnight, they spoke of a pandemic potential—more cases, more countries, and the virus spreading to more communities.

And we learned Wednesday of what may be the first community transmission of the virus in the United States, with a patient in Northern California having contracted coronavirus without having been in contact with a known hotspot.

I support the administration’s declaration of a public health emergency. 

That said, I have grave concerns about the lack of transparency and unwillingness to allow public health experts to speak freely about what is happening.

I have serious concerns about the administration’s responsiveness with respect to funding. We have repeatedly asked for information about expenditures. And thus far, we have not received adequate answers.

On Monday, the Administration finally submitted a request for emergency supplemental funding. But there is no supporting documentation, which we need immediately. A request that transfers resources from other significant health necessities is unacceptable. 

For our part, Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer have laid out what a supplemental should look like, that means:

  • All new funding, no transfers;
  • The Administration cannot transfer it for any other use;
  • Vaccines must be affordable, available to all that need it
  • Interest-free loans to small business; and,

We also need to include:

  • Financial consideration for workers who lose their jobs as a result of shuttered businesses;
  • We need a strict protocol for the protection of health care workers; and,
  • Reimbursement for state and local government for our public health infrastructure.

We need to have answers to:

  • Where is the U.S. most vulnerable?
  • What is the level of our preparedness to address a potential domestic crisis, as well as an international one?
  • What are the challenges to our supply chain, particularly for medications? As 90% of the active ingredients in our generic drugs come from China.
  • How will we address that? Where are the shortages—test kits, protective gear?

Above all, we need a coordinated scientific approach.

It is my hope that we will be able to move this supplemental through on a bipartisan basis and as quickly as possible. 

Now let me introduce the guests:

  • Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and acting White House Chief of Staff;
  • Dr. Robert Kadlec, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services;
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the NIH;
  • Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
  • Dr. Stephen Hahn, Commissioner, FDA;
  • Gary Rasicot, Acting Assistant Secretary, Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction, DHS;
  • David Stilwell, Assistant Secretary for East Asian Pacific Affairs, State Department;
  • Robert Salesses, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Homeland Defense Integration and Defense Support of Civil Authorities, DOD;
  • Brigadier General Dr. Paul Friedrichs, Joint Staff Surgeon, Joint Chiefs of Staff;
  • Derek Kan, Executive Associate Director, Office of Management and Budget.