Aug 23, 2022 - Health

Fauci's future spotlight

Photo illustration of Anthony Fauci with spotlight on him, and blue rectangles around him.
Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Shawn Thew-Pool/Getty Images

NIAID director Anthony Fauci's time in the spotlight likely won't end with his retirement: Republicans plan to investigate his role in the COVID pandemic if they take control of the House or Senate next year.

The intrigue: Although the GOP could always subpoena Fauci as a civilian, they may not need to.

  • "I have never had any problem defending what I've done and I have nothing to hide," Fauci said in an interview with Axios. "I've testified before the Congress hundreds of times over the last 38 years. I have no trouble testifying before Congress."
  • Republicans have tried to link Fauci to so-called gain-of-function research — in which a virus can be tweaked to become more virulent — and connect NIH-funded work to the pandemic. They've also stepped up personal attacks on Fauci, to tap into voter frustrations with the pandemic.

Driving the news: Republicans who could potentially be committee chairs signaled they were open to expanding the scope of their future investigations.

  • Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, released a press statement on Monday vowing to continue investigating Fauci, stating: "Retirement can't shield Dr. Fauci from congressional oversight."
  • Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a Monday press release that, "We need answers to many questions around the government's failed COVID-19 pandemic response, how this pandemic started, and his [Fauci's] role in supporting taxpayer-funded risky research without proper oversight in China."
  • Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) who could potentially be the next chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee if the GOP flips the Senate, tweeted on Monday that "Fauci's resignation will not prevent a full-throated investigation into the origins of the pandemic. He will be asked to testify under oath regarding any discussions he participated in concerning the lab leak."

Flashback: In January, GOP House Oversight Committee members released a batch of Fauci's emails where he discussed the origins of COVID-19. Republicans claimed the emails showed that Fauci concealed information and downplayed the idea that the virus leaked from a laboratory.

  • Meanwhile, there has been a call from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for a 9/11 style bipartisan commission investigation into the U.S. COVID-19 response, but so far legislation that would enact it hasn’t seen much momentum.
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