House Republican Whip Scalise: Select Subcommittee Dems Go Silent During Critical Months of Pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Republican Whip and Select Subcommittee Ranking Member Steve Scalise (R-La.) opened the Select Subcommittee’s hearing criticizing committee Democrats for not holding any hearings during some of the most critical months of the COVID-19 pandemic, only to return from their hiatus just to try to sell Speaker Pelosi’s Payoff to Progressives Act.

Whip Scalise emphasized how the Select Subcommittee should have been focused on accelerating the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, safely reopening our schools, protecting our nation’s most vulnerable, holding China accountable, and ensuring taxpayer dollars are being spent appropriately. Instead, Democrats’ prioritized Speaker Pelosi’s $1.9 trillion package of progressive priorities where over 90% of the bill isn’t even related to public health spending.

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Mr. Chairman, thank you. I’d like to welcome the new Members of the Subcommittee. The Subcommittee has not held a hearing since October 2nd, which strikes us as extraordinary. Speaker Pelosi stood this up to deal with a pandemic, yet we have gone 5 months without a single hearing – during some of the most impactful months of the pandemic. 5 months without investigating:

  • Vaccine rollout;
  • School re-openings;
  • The mental health and drug addiction crisis;
  • China and the World Health Organization;
  • Nursing homes;
  • COVID and border security;

“Instead, the Select Subcommittee went silent. Today, it reopens for the sole purpose of serving as Speaker Pelosi’s PR machine to tout the Payoff to Progressives boondoggle bill that passed on a strictly party line vote last week. 

“When this subcommittee was created, the majority made a point of emphasizing the desire to model it after the Truman Committee from World War II – a committee that strove to make sure the federal government spent taxpayer dollars wisely and effectively. But, instead, the majority wants to cheer spending nearly $2 trillion, over 90 percent of which had nothing to do with health needs or reopening schools, and then [Democrats] argue we need to tax and spend trillions more.

“A year into the pandemic, shouldn’t the Select Subcommittee focus on lessons learned? We do know that in inflation adjusted dollars, all of World War II cost $4 trillion. We have now spent $5.7 trillion – and much of that money still remains unspent. If this subcommittee was truly modeled after the Truman Committee, the Select Subcommittee should be the leading voice in Congress educating the American people that some governors managed their states dramatically better than other states, and sharing those best practices could have saved us trillions.

“The minority asked all year to hold a hearing on China and the World Health Organization. The majority refused. Now, even the Washington Post Editorial Board has written, ‘We’re still missing the origin story of this pandemic. China is sitting on the answers.’ The Post Editorial Board is asking the same question we have asked the majority on this subcommittee from the beginning: What is China trying to hide about the origins of the pandemic — and why? Other voices from both the left and right have raised the same concerns – but the silence from the majority remains. Mr. Chairman, China’s lies and the WHO’s cover-up cost us a half a million lives and trillions of dollars. Where is the bipartisan outrage?

“On June 15th, the minority wrote the governors of 5 states a letter asking for information about deadly nursing home policies that forced COVID positive patients back into nursing homes. The majority ignored us. History now shows we were right, and now it has come out that Governor Cuomo initiated a potentially criminal cover up specifically designed to hide the number of nursing home deaths. There is bipartisan outrage in New York – including the launching of impeachment proceedings against the Governor. Democrat colleagues have called for Governor Cuomo’s resignation – citing the nursing home scandal. But, the silence from Democrats here in Congress rings volumes. Just last week, we again asked for hearings on the scandal. The silence is deafening.

“A year into this pandemic, we know many cities made devastating mistakes on school closures.  Back in March and April of last year, the mistake was understandable. We just didn’t know enough. But by the fall, the science was clear that all K-12 schools should have been opened. We had already seen the stress of children’s mental health. We had already seen the spike in opioid deaths among teens. We already knew that those most disproportionally impacted by school closures were those at the lowest end of the income spectrum. A childhood can’t be repeated.

“And we now know the science is clear. Transmission in schools that have opened – about 40 percent of schools – is very low. Given the costs of closure, the balance screams open the schools. We did not need a bill where 95 percent of the money for schools can’t be spent until after 2021, and NONE of that money is dedicated to safely reopening schools! The schools should be open today. 

“We hear we can’t open schools until this money is spent – schools need to upgrade. We already passed hundreds of billions in relief that was targeted to getting schools ready to reopen. Some chose to serve those children, and some bowed to the union bosses, ignoring the science, and remained closed. Are we really going to keep those schools closed for another year or more?  This is one of the biggest public policy mistakes America has made this century. 

“The per capita death rate from COVID in California and Florida are about the same. New York’s is much higher than both. California and New York locked down – kept businesses, schools and churches closed. Their unemployment rates are 9 and 8.8 percent. Florida – to misguided criticism – opened up their schools and businesses. The unemployment rate there is 4.8 percent. After five months with no hearings, Mr. Chairman, it seems like today’s hearing should be about the different experiences of states that stayed locked down and the states that safely opened. Because if the Select Subcommittee modeled after Harry Truman’s had held that hearing, the conclusion would be that we could save trillions by focusing on:

  • The most vulnerable in our society;
  • Rededicating ourselves to ending inequality in our education system;
  • Simply following the science;
  • Analyzing the data;
  • Acknowledging that American ingenuity and Operation Warp Speed are the path out of this pandemic. 

“I yield back.”