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Fauci and Birx. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The White House informed Congress on Monday that members of the administration's coronavirus task force, which includes health experts Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, won't be allowed to testify in May.

Why it matters: The administration argues that having officials spend time testifying diverts critical resources and attention from its pandemic response. The move is likely to draw backlash from Democrats who have already accused the administration of skirting oversight during the coronavirus crisis.

  • The White House said that "all other departments, agencies, and witnesses may accept hearing invitations," but stressed that "agency resources should still be prioritized toward the COVID-19 response."
  • White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is permitted to authorize exceptions to the guidance.

The White House had previously barred testimony from Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, saying in a statement last week:

"While the Trump administration continues its whole-of-government response to COVID-19, including safely opening up America again and expediting vaccine development, it is counter-productive to have the very individuals involved in those efforts appearing at Congressional hearings."
— White House spokesperson Judd Deere

Go deeper

Aug 12, 2020 - Health

Fauci says he "seriously" doubts Russia's coronavirus vaccine is safe

NIAID director Anthony Fauci testifies during a July congressional hearing on Capitol Hill. Photo: Kevin DietschI/AFP via Getty Images

NIAID director Anthony Fauci cast doubt during a National Geographic discussion due to air this week on the effectiveness of Russia's registered coronavirus vaccine touted by President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.

Why it matters: "Having a vaccine ... and proving that a vaccine is safe and effective are two different things," Fauci told told ABC News' Deborah Roberts in the discussion, expected to air on Thursday. His comments add to the weight of skepticism from scientists around the world on the Russia vaccine. There is no published scientific to support support Putin's claims.

McCarthy jokes about hitting Pelosi with gavel if he becomes Speaker, in new audio

Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) can be heard saying "it would be hard not to hit" House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with the speaker's gavel if Republicans retake the House in 2022 and he becomes speaker, according to new audio posted to Twitter by a Main Street Nashville reporter.

Driving the news: McCarthy made the comments during a fundraising event in Tennessee, as he was handed an oversized gavel by members of the Tennessee congressional delegation, reports CNN.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

U.S. and U.K. blame Iran for drone strike on oil tanker

Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. Photo: Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Sunday that the United States and United Kingdom, respectively, now believe Iran was likely responsible for last week's drone strike on an oil tanker in the Arabian sea.

Why it matters: The United States and Britain now join Israel in accusing Tehran of being behind the July 29 attack off the coast of Oman. Iran has denied involvement.