House Republicans plan to hold their own public hearing on the origins of Covid-19 next week, featuring "many respected doctors, scientists" and "members of Congress who've been investigating this on their own," House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said Thursday.
They lack subpoena power and don't have the ability to compel witnesses to testify and produce documents because of their minority status. But Scalise said Republicans on the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, which was created by Democrats to examine former President Donald Trump's response to the pandemic, will press ahead with their scheduled Tuesday hearing out of frustration over the majority's refusal to hold a public hearing dedicated to the matter.
Scalise said he and other Republicans have repeatedly demanded Democratic leadership, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., conduct hearings to hold the "Chinese Communist Party accountable" for the pandemic, to no avail.
"Here in the United States we’ve had over 600,000 deaths — nearly 4 million worldwide — yet Speaker Pelosi still refuses to hold a hearing on the origin of Covid-19," said Scalise, the subcommittee's ranking member.
President Joe Biden ordered the intelligence community to redouble its efforts to get to the bottom of the deadly virus's origins last month after new reports raised questions about whether it spread from a laboratory in Wuhan, China.
The intelligence community has so far been unable to reach a “definitive conclusion” on the origins of the virus and is conflicted on whether it came from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident, Biden said. He gave the agencies 90 days to "collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion.
In a letter to Scalise earlier this month, the subcommittee's chair, Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., the chair of the Oversight Committee, noted that other congressional committees, including science committee, "have indicated they intend to perform work related to the origins of the coronavirus."
"Our Committees are focused on ensuring that the federal government’s response to the pandemic is effective, efficient, and equitable," they wrote, adding that, "We are concerned that your request may be designed not to obtain new information to protect Americans’ health, but to deflect accountability for the Trump Administration’s failed response to this crisis."
The Democratic-controlled House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee is investigating the origins of the virus, but has not held a hearing on it. Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., suggested in a statement last month that the committee would hold off until after the 90-day review was completed.
“It is critical that we allow the IC [Intelligence Committee], and other scientific and medical experts, to objectively weigh and assess all available facts, and to avoid any premature or politically motivated conclusions,” Schiff said.