WASHINGTON—Republican Whip and Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Ranking Member Steve Scalise (R-La.) opened today’s hearing by emphasizing how President Trump’s leadership on Operation Warp Speed led to America creating the fastest vaccine in human history and providing enough vaccine to give a shot to every American who wants one.
He slammed President Biden for caving to progressive special interests by planning to grant patent waivers for COVID-19 vaccines, which would effectively put U.S. intellectual property in China’s hands and harm future innovation. Scalise concluded by calling on President Biden to contract with manufacturers to help distribute the vaccine to countries in need instead of harming future U.S. medical innovation.
In her opening statement, Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa) blasted the Biden Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for allowing the American Federation of Teachers to meddle in and draft scientific guidance regarding reopening schools. She chastised Select Subcommittee Democrats for refusing to investigate the AFT’s influence on the CDC’s guidance and emphasized reopening America’s classrooms should by governed by medical science.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding today’s hearing. Each of us have felt the renewed freedom and enjoyed seeing the smiles of our friends and neighbors again this past week. Masks are flying off the faces of Americans faster than liberals in Washington spend a trillion dollars! That is a great thing to see.
Those of us on the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis have a duty and responsibility to help educate our colleagues, our constituents, the media, and leaders in education and business about how we got here. We have had a spirited debate about the effectiveness of lockdowns. Let’s set that aside for today – and God willing leave that debate in the rear-view mirror – and to history’s judgement.
But every one of us on this subcommittee should look our colleagues in the eye and say there is total bipartisan agreement on this subcommittee – the vaccine ended this pandemic.
So how did we get to the point where America created the fastest vaccine in human history and produced, manufactured, and distributed enough vaccine to give a shot to every American who wants one?
The story begins over 30 years ago – when the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) began negotiating international trade agreements in earnest. On a bipartisan basis for three decades, USTR made protection of U.S. intellectual property a cornerstone of our agreements. Trade agreements have proved controversial from time to time – but what was never controversial was that if American ingenuity can flourish and is protected – that America can compete and win. And over that period, American pharmaceutical companies led the world in both research and development and the introduction of new life-saving drugs.
About 25 years ago, after Republicans took back the majority for the first time since 1955, Congress decided to make a major push on biomedical research. The Republican Congress worked with President Bill Clinton to double the size of the National Institute of Health. During the administration of George W. Bush, the Republican Congress made yet another major investment in NIH – with strong bipartisan support.
During the Bush Administration, the federal government began to take seriously the threat of bioterrorism and pandemic response. The executive branch began working with Emergent on producing anthrax and smallpox vaccines – it takes time and expertise and partnerships to have the infrastructure in place to respond effectively. When H1N1 hit during the Obama-Biden Administration, America was not ready. White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain has acknowledged as much, saying we just got lucky. Hoping to get lucky is not a smart strategy.
But we kept at it. We invested in BARDA. The executive branch’s relationship with Emergent continued throughout the Obama years and they continued to develop expertise and infrastructure on some highly sophisticated manufacturing techniques and technologies.
President Bush launched PEPFAR – a public/private partnership to save Africa from the AIDS epidemic. A key pillar in that was working with U.S. pharmaceutical companies on developing key drugs – and protecting their intellectual property.
And then came Fred Upton and Dianne DeGette and their bipartisan leadership on the 21st Century Cures Act. That was one of my proudest efforts during my tenure as Majority Whip. We doubled NIH again, and just as importantly established the Emergency Use Authorization process upon which the vaccine would be approved – a provision that is saving millions of lives.
In January 2020, China lied to the world – and the lies of the communist party of China caused COVID-19 to spread throughout the globe – igniting the worst pandemic in 100 years. What we can now say – as far as finding a vaccine and a way out of the pandemic – America led the world. President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed built on 30 years of smart policy:
- Protect IP
- Invest in biomedical research
- Invest in public private partnerships on critical manufacturing infrastructure
President Trump’s leadership on Operation Warp Speed was critical. Importantly, OWS leveraged work going back over two administrations to partner with companies like Emergent to begin the manufacturing process before the vaccines were even approved. That decision proved to be a game changer – it is why we could get so many shots in arms so quickly after getting the emergency use authorization.
Mr. Chairman, President Biden has now put at risk a key pillar of this strategy – the protection of U.S. intellectual property. President Biden’s cave to progressive special interests threatens all that hard-won progress and will make the next life-saving medical breakthrough much harder to pull off. Stripping innovators of their constitutionally protected patents will undermine innovation, weaken our international competitiveness, and only help communist China, the country that spread the pandemic. It would force the American developers of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics to relinquish their intellectual property rights to these medicines.
Imagine that for years we all spoke out against China stealing America’s intellectual property. Now we have the American President trying to give our IP away to China for free!
But it will likely take manufacturers years to build the facilities and source the materials that are needed to safely produce vaccines even with the intellectual property that President Biden is forcing American innovators to give away.
Today’s hearing underscores that critical point. The federal government has worked with Emergent over Democrat and Republican administrations on complicated, sensitive biomedical manufacturing infrastructure – and yet the majority feels the need to undermine confidence in the drugs they produce. Does anyone believe handing over U.S. intellectual property to a start up in a far less developed country is going to quickly yield actual, safe effective shots in arms?
President Biden is destroying 30 years of successful bipartisan policy – and for what? His plan won’t even work. Why don’t we protect IP, contract with U.S. manufacturers and help distribute the vaccine to countries in need? It is a quicker, smarter strategy. There would be more shots given and we wouldn’t have to kneecap our future pandemic responses to do it.
Instead of putting shots in arms, the Biden Administration is putting U.S. IP in China’s hands. That is insane!
With that, I yield to my colleague from Iowa.
On May 11, Committee Republicans sent a letter to the CDC about the apparent influence of the American Federation of Teachers on official government documents.
We have yet to receive a response.
The AFT is not a medical group.
It is not a scientific group.
Yet, it is providing verbatim edits to scientific and medical guidance at the CDC’s request.
Chairman Clyburn and House Democrats spent the better part of a year investigating alleged influence at the CDC.
But remain silent on these egregious reports.
This is influence by political operatives that are both unelected and unaffiliated with the federal government.
As one of the two medical experts on this Committee, this is appalling.
President Biden promised his administration would follow science and truth.
Director Walensky said the guidance was free from political meddling.
A paper trail shows this to be patently false.
Biden’s Secretary of Education said “in-person learning offers our young people the best opportunity.”
Why not listen to him?
The Democrats and teachers union kept schools closed.
And now not only has a generation of young children been robbed of a year of education, but mental health problems are up 31%, drug use and addiction resulting in overdose have exploded, and children as young as nine have committed suicide.
All traced back to shuttering of schools.
Now we know who is responsible.
The teachers unions.
Union involvement in the drafting and editing of scientific guidance is the very definition of political meddling.
It is unclear how many children were locked out of school because of the union’s selfishness. And even today, summer camps do not have guidance from the CDC on reopening without masks. Do they need to hire the AFT?
The lives of America’s children must be governed by medical science not political science.