Coronavirus Roundup: Senate Votes to Declassify Information on COVID Origins, the White House Won’t Say if Biden Supports the Bill
There’s a lot to keep track of. Here’s a list of this week’s news updates and stories you may have missed.
Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee announced on Friday his committee will hold a hearing on March 9 on oversight of the Office of Personnel Management, which will feature testimony from OPM Director Kiran Ahuja. While not mentioned specifically in the press release, it is highly likely that use of telework, remote work and hybrid work options for federal employees post-pandemic will come up as those have been major talking points for Republicans. Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed.
As of Jan. 31, 2023, the federal government has obligated a total of $4.5 trillion in COVID relief funds and expended $4.2 trillion, or 98% and 90%, respectively, the Government Accountability Office said on Tuesday. Moreover, $90.5 billion in funding is available and $23.7 has expired.
The Senate passed a bill by unanimous consent on Wednesday to require the director of national intelligence to declassify information related to the origins of COVID-19, following The Wall Street Journal report on Sunday that the Energy Department now says the pandemic most likely started from a lab leak (a decision it made with “low confidence”). Some members in the House have also called for this declassification.
When asked on Thursday if the president would sign the bill if the House passed it, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said he wouldn’t get ahead of the president’s decision. “Right after taking office, the president declassified and had made public the DNI’s initial findings here about the source of COVID,” Kirby stated. Also, “the intelligence community continues to assess the origins of COVID…Right now, there's just no consensus.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray told Fox News on Tuesday that “the FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan.” According to The Wall Street Journal’s report “four other agencies, along with a national intelligence panel, still judge that it was likely the result of a natural transmission, and two are undecided.
The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic will have its first hearing on the origins of COVID on March 8, the panel announced this week. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under the Trump administration, is among the witnesses scheduled to testify.
The Food and Drug Administration will have a virtual public meeting on April 25 for the agency to hear patients’ perspectives on the impact of Long COVID on their daily lives and treatment approaches, according to a notice in the Federal Register.
Help us understand the situation better. Are you a federal employee, contractor or military member with information, concerns, etc. about how your agency is handling the coronavirus? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NEXT STORY: Government Reform Isn’t Dead. It’s Just Changed.