Azar agrees to testify on coronavirus

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar will testify in front of House Oversight’s select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis, the panel’s chairman announced this morning.

Democrats plan to ask Azar why the administration has failed to develop and implement a “science-based national strategy” to contain Covid-19, said Rep. Jim Clyburn, the subcommittee chair.

Azar also will be pressed on examples of political appointees in his department meddling with scientific reports or seeking to muzzle government experts.

An HHS spokesperson confirmed that Azar will testify next month.

Why it matters: Azar has strenuously avoided comment on instances of political meddling in the government’s coronavirus response, including after his department’s chief spokesperson went on a Facebook video rant on Sunday where he attacked Centers for Disease Control scientists as seeking to undermine the administration. That spokesperson, Michael Caputo, took medical leave on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the subcommittee has opened multiple probes into HHS’ response, including an investigation launched on Monday into political efforts to change key scientific bulletins known as the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports.

Azar “owes the American public an explanation,” said a subcommittee spokesperson.

A rare appearance: The Oct. 2 hearing will be the first time that Azar has appeared before Congress since February, Clyburn said.

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