Congressman H. Morgan Griffith: Executive Branch Oversight

One of the main responsibilities of Congress is oversight of the executive. For any administration, but especially the Biden administration, that means a lot of questions to ask.

Unlike the number of questions, the opportunities to ask them were few. The appearance of U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Health Subcommittee on April 27 marked his first in-person appearance in his current role before the committee with jurisdiction over the department he leads. The same can be said of US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm’s appearance before the Energy Subcommittee the following day.

For each, I had a lot of questions: about the policies they were putting in place, the problems in their departments and the follow-ups from previous investigations.

As Republican head of the Oversight and Investigative Subcommittee, I am tasked with efforts to hold the executive branch to account. Given that the current House majority and the president share the same party affiliation, Democrats have mostly, but not entirely, lost interest in scrutinizing the Biden administration. The majority holds the subpoena power, which adds to the difficulties of our oversight functions. Nevertheless, the Republicans are watching.

Secretary Becerra’s testimony came first. HHS, the department he oversees, has been at the center of the pandemic. It also has information about the origins of the pandemic.

Understanding the origins of COVID-19 is essential for accountability and preparedness for any future pandemic. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), part of HHS, has funded work at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China, near where the pandemic began. I and other Republican leaders on the Energy and Commerce Committee have requested documents related to these grants.

Our investigation recently uncovered indications that EcoHealth Alliance, the Wuhan lab grant recipient, violated NIH policies on scientific research and may have withheld data. On this and other aspects of the investigation, we need the cooperation of the NIH to make progress, but that has not been the case. I asked Secretary Becerra to get the NIH and its divisions, including the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases under Dr. Anthony Fauci, to respond to us.

The direct toll of COVID is well known. The number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths have become a staple of news stories since the start of the pandemic. But other damage caused by the pandemic remains in the shadows.

I encouraged HHS to examine the troubling increase in reported mental health issues, especially among young people, and its relationship to pandemic shutdowns. The closure of schools and the implementation of mask mandates appear to have harmed childhood development. Mental health surveys should report on the toll of lockdowns.

Similarly, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a record number of drug overdose deaths in the twelve months ending October 2021. Although overdoses were too high before the pandemic, this has clearly contributed to an increase in deaths, as people struggling with drug addiction were cut off from treatment and had to cope in isolation. HHS needs to examine this issue closely.

I also acted on concerns I had previously expressed about HHS’s poor job vetting sponsors for illegal immigrant minors through its Office of Refugee Resettlement.

My questions for Secretary Granholm related to the work of the Department of Energy to develop new technologies. The department must protect taxpayers’ money and direct it to projects that will deliver real benefits, not serve an ideological agenda.

During the Obama administration, funding went to projects that had, at best, not been fully vetted. The most infamous, Solyndra, was backed by departmental loan guarantees long after his future looked uncertain. Solyndra went bankrupt and lost taxpayers millions of dollars.

I asked Secretary Granholm about the status of the reforms enacted after Solyndra to avoid a repeat.

In addition, I encouraged parity in the financing of fossil fuel projects. Much of the world, including major economic players such as China and India, will continue to use fossil fuels. Ignoring this fact when researching the next generation of energy technologies will only cede the opportunity to reduce emissions from these fuels and cost our country potential exports.

The executive branch must be held accountable for its activities, whether by questioning Cabinet secretaries, demanding documents or, if in a majority, subpoenas. I undertake to monitor to ensure the faithful execution of the laws and the protection of the interests of the taxpayers.

– Congressman H. Morgan Griffith

To reach my office by email, please visit my website at

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