Democrat seeks documents on White House Interfering with COVID messaging

We are concerned the process lacks clear structure, gives undue weight to the opinions of non-expert political appointees
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[White House COVID-19 Messaging]
Rep. Krishnamoorthi: “We are particularly concerned that a little-known office within the White House—the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, part of the Office of Management and Budget—is exerting influence over what is supposed to be non-partisan, scientific messaging.”
Photo: YouTube

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, sent letters to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requesting information about the control over public health messaging and information exercised by non-experts in the White House.

“We are particularly concerned that a little-known office within the White House—the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, part of the Office of Management and Budget—is exerting influence over what is supposed to be non-partisan, scientific messaging,” said Subcommittee Chairman Krishnamoorthi.

In 2019, Executive Order 13891 vastly expanded the reach of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) by requiring not only regulations but also non-binding guidance to be funneled through the Office. During the coronavirus pandemic, OIRA’s review of public health guidance reportedly expanded even more, now covering almost every document related to the coronavirus.

This spring, the White House Coronavirus Task Force began reviewing coronavirus guidance. OIRA was also reviewing coronavirus guidance, as well as sending it to other officials for comment. Many of the reviewers lack public health or scientific experience. For example, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, a former Congressman and real estate developer, recently weighed in on FDA’s vaccine guidance, indicating he saw no need for it.

Until recently, OIRA published on its website, as required by law, a “publicly available log” of all rules and guidances under review so that the public knew the issues on which it was working. Troublingly, CDC guidance documents that have been distorted and blocked by OIRA in recent months do not appear on its website. OIRA has also stopped publishing on its website the list of closed-door meetings it takes with lobbyists on the guidances under review.

“We are concerned the process lacks clear structure, gives undue weight to the opinions of non-expert political appointees, weakens guidance, and delays its publication,” added Chairman Krishnamoorthi. The Subcommittee requested the documents by October 19, 2020.

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