GOP senators invoke statute to force HHS answers on COVID origins: ‘Full-fledged cover-up’

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GOP senators invoke statute to force HHS answers on COVID origins: ‘Full-fledged cover-up’

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FIRST ON FOX: Republican senators are invoking a statute to force Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra to provide answers to several outstanding inquiries about COVID-19’s origins and vaccine safety. 

“We write regarding the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) complete disregard for transparency, Congressional oversight, and the public’s right to know,” wrote Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., in a letter on Tuesday also signed by Sens. James Lankford, R-Okla., Josh Hawley, R-Mo., Rick Scott, R-Fla., and Roger Marshall, R-Kan.

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Sen. Ron Johnson, left, led several Republicans in invoking a statute requiring HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra to respond to outstanding inquiries. (Getty Images )

The lawmakers announced they were invoking a federal statute which requires executive agencies to “submit any information requested of it relating to any matter within the jurisdiction of the committee” when prompted by five members of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGAC). 

The letter states that the senators on HSGAC have written to HHS and its sub-agencies on several occasions with questions regarding the COVID-19 virus and pandemic and its origins. 

“Rather than provide comprehensive and thorough responses to requests from members of this Committee, HHS has opted to either ignore letters from duly elected U.S. senators, or provide incomplete responses,” the senators said. 

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A registered nurse fills a syringe with the COVID-19 vaccine

A nurse fills a syringe with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Eleven specific outstanding requests are highlighted by Johnson, which he noted HHS should prioritize. Each relates to either the origins of the COVID-19 virus or the safety of its vaccines. The outstanding requests date back as far as 2020. 

Responses to the prioritized requests are expected by the senators from Becerra by July 12. 

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Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra has not provided complete answers to the lawmakers, they say. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

“HHS’s indifference and lack of responsiveness threatens our ability to fulfill our Constitutional oversight responsibility,” the lawmakers claimed in the letter. 

According to the Republicans, “HHS’s refusal to provide the requested records over the last three years clearly demonstrates a full-fledged cover-up.”

“What are you and your sub-agencies hiding?” they asked. 

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Sen. Ron Johnson

Sen. Ron Johnson has pressed HHS repeatedly for information on vaccine safety and COVID origins. (Graeme Sloan/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The senators also warned HHS and Becerra against non-compliance with the statutory request, saying, “HSGAC Republicans are taking note of HHS’s and your legal infractions and fully intend to hold you and your colleagues accountable using any means at our disposal.” 

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The lawmakers are capable of using subpoena power to compel Becerra to speak to their questions, requesting transcribed interviews, or even attempting to hold him in contempt of Congress. However, with Democrats currently holding a majority in the Senate, it’s unlikely that a contempt of Congress resolution would pass. 

A spokesperson for HHS told Fox News Digital, “HHS has received the letter and will respond directly to the Senators.”

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