An investigation led by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) uncovered a failure to properly reappoint 14 National Institutes of Health (NIH) officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, as required by law.
The investigation, which began in March 2022, has brought to light a series of concerning issues surrounding the reappointment process and has raised questions about the validity of actions taken by these officials during their unauthorized tenure.
Rodgers (R-WA) revealed on Monday that 14 NIH employees, including former NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, were not lawfully reappointed to their positions in December of 2021, as required by law.
“We have uncovered that Sec. Becerra failed to follow the Constitution and the law to reappoint top NIH officials when their terms expired in December 2021. As a result, 14 NIH officials held unlawful positions and exercised authority they didn’t have,” Rodgers wrote.
We have uncovered that @SecBecerra failed to follow the Constitution and the law to reappoint top NIH officials when their terms expired in December 2021.
As a result, 14 NIH officials held unlawful positions and exercised authority they didn’t have.
— CathyMcMorrisRodgers (@cathymcmorris) July 9, 2023
Under the 21st Century Cures Act, passed with bipartisan support in 2016, NIH Institute and Center (IC) Directors are considered inferior officers of the United States. The law stipulates that these directors must be appointed and reappointed according to specific guidelines outlined in Section 2033, titled “Increasing Accountability at the National Institutes of Health.” The HHS Secretary is responsible for these appointments, with the NIH Director having the authority to recommend candidates.
However, the investigation found that the NIH IC Directors, including Dr. Fauci, were not reappointed in December 2021 as required. Instead, the NIH handled the reappointments internally, with an NIH human resources director signing off on the process. Only after extensive discussions with the Committee did HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra attempt to reappoint the directors in June 2023 through signed appointment affidavits, nearly eighteen months after their terms had expired.
“The failure to reappoint the above NIH IC Directors jeopardizes the legal validity of more than $25 billion in federal biomedical research grants made in 2022 alone,” the committee wrote.
“HHS has produced no documentation showing that Dr. Fauci and Dr. Glass were reappointed as NIAID Director and Fogarty International Center Director, respectively. Both retired prior to the issuance of the June 2023 appointment affidavits. Given his central role in the COVID-19 response, the Committee is particularly concerned about the failure to reappoint Dr. Fauci. Without reappointment, Dr. Fauci continued to serve as NIAID Director until his retirement on December 31, 2022. If Dr. Fauci was never reappointed, every action he took is potentially invalid,” it added.
The investigation further revealed that Dr. Fauci made controversial decisions during his tenure, including awarding a new grant to EcoHealth Alliance, raising concerns about potential double-billing and the lack of transparency regarding research expenses. The fact that Dr. Fauci wielded considerable authority and influence without being duly reappointed highlights the need for better management and accountability within HHS and its component agencies.
For more than a YEAR, we requested documents from HHS proving that Secretary Becerra properly made these reappointments.@NIH initially misled @HouseCommerce and claimed the reappointments had been made. We know that isn’t true.
— CathyMcMorrisRodgers (@cathymcmorris) July 9, 2023
The Committee strongly asserts that Secretary Becerra’s failure to follow the 21st Century Cures Act and reappoint more than 50 percent of NIH IC Directors is unacceptable. The obstruction and misrepresentations made by HHS and the NIH during the investigation only exacerbate the situation, undermining trust in federal public health agencies. The consequences of these failures extend to federal biomedical research, potential violations of statutes governing appropriated funds, and the need for greater accountability.
“We have uncovered through our investigation that HHS Secretary Becerra did not follow federal law when he failed to reappoint leaders at NIH, including Dr. Fauci,” said Rodgers during FOX interview.
“Dr. Fauci, who was the highest paid federal employee, has made decisions—as well as these other leaders at NIH—over billions of dollars in grants, including the most recent grant to EcoHealth Alliance,” she added.
“We know that EcoHealth Alliance is the one that facilitated research at the Wuhan lab in China.
“These individuals were to be reappointed [in December 2021]. This is an accountability measure that was put into the law by Congress in the 21st Century Cures Act because we believed it was important that these individuals be held accountable,” Rodgers said.
Dr. Fauci was in a position, along with 13 other @NIH officials, making decisions over $26 billion of grants without a lawful appointment.
— CathyMcMorrisRodgers (@cathymcmorris) July 11, 2023
Read the letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra:
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