The White House has halted administration participation at congressional hearings related to the nation’s coronavirus response until the end of March. The new policy was put in effect Tuesday afternoon, according to a memo obtained by CQ Roll Call.
Committee staff directors received the notice Tuesday from White House Legislative Affairs. It notified them of the administration's “temporary pause with respect to the involvement in hearings.”
“While the Trump Administration continues its whole-of-government approach to stopping the spread of COVID-19, it is counter-productive to have the very individuals involved in response efforts appearing at Congressional hearings,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement Wednesday. “We are committed to working with Congress to offer testimony at the appropriate time.”
Congressional leadership was also notified of the hearing policy, according to the memo.
“We remain respectful of the essential role of Congress in this effort and we look forward to working with Congress closely as we all rise to meet this challenge,” the memo said.
The White House told Congress that the administration could not spare the officials’ time to update Congress directly on the administration’s coronavirus response efforts and committed to a daily 3 p.m. press briefing “to offer full transparency.”
“Right now the executive branch needs all of its resources directly focused on executing its day to day response to COVID-19,” the memo stated.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee announced on Monday the cancellation of a coronavirus hearing slated for Wednesday, citing limitations on large gatherings. Lawmakers had planned to limit seating at the hearing and to livestream the event, which is postponed indefinitely.
The hearing was scheduled to feature testimony from officials at the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration on the federal response to the ongoing public health crisis.
Niels Lesniewski and Mary Ellen McIntire contributed to this report.