Career CDC scientist says consultation with outside groups is “uncommon,” contradicting Walensky’s claim that consultation with AFT was routine
WASHINGTON—Today, Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Republicans released an interim report revealing Dr. Rochelle Walensky bypassed customary scientific processes at the U.S. Centers and Disease Control (CDC) to allow the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), a political union and donor to the Biden campaign, to re-write key portions of the Biden Administration’s school reopening guidance. The AFT’s edits ultimately led to thousands of schools across the country to remain shuttered throughout the 2020-2021 school year.
Republican Whip and Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Ranking Member Steve Scalise (R-La.) and House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.) issued the following statement in the interim report:
“The facts are clear: Biden’s CDC overrode routine practice to allow a radical teachers union that donated millions of dollars to Democrat campaigns to bypass scientific norms and rewrite official agency guidance. The damaging edits by union bosses effectively kept thousands of schools shuttered across the country, locking millions of children out of their classrooms. The Biden Administration abandoned medical science and replaced it with political science to reward one of their largest donors, harming millions of children in the process. They bypassed the science to put union bosses ahead of children.
“Millions of Americans are still outraged at what these Washington Democrats put their children through, and all because union bosses demanded they keep schools closed longer. America’s children are suffering, academically and mentally, because of the Biden Administration enabled school closures. Republicans will not rest until we uncover all the facts and hold everyone accountable who was involved in holding back millions of children from having equal opportunity to achieve the American Dream.”
On February 12, 2021, the CDC released the Biden Administration’s first school reopening guidance. Senior agency officials shared a draft copy of the school reopening guidance with the AFT. After reviewing the draft, AFT staff asked CDC Director Rochelle Walensky to install a “trigger” in the guidance that would cause schools to close automatically if COVID-19 positivity rates reached a certain threshold. The CDC obliged, and thousands of schools across the country remained closed throughout the 2020-2021 school year.
On July 19, 2021, Director Walensky told Select Subcommittee Republicans the CDC’s consultation with AFT was routine and consistent with the agency’s customary process for issuing guidance. However, Republicans’ investigation reveals this level of coordination is not routine. On February 18, 2022, Republican staff interviewed Dr. Henry Walke, a career CDC scientist and medical doctor. Dr. Walke testified this level of coordination between the CDC and an outside organization was “uncommon.” In fact, according to Dr. Walke, the CDC does not typically share draft guidance outside the agency for any reason, even with other federal partners.
Summary of Interim Findings:
- Dr. Walke’s testimony reveals the Biden Administration provided AFT unprecedented access to the policymaking process for guidance on re-opening schools.
- Director Walensky downplayed the degree to which the CDC gave AFT access to the policymaking process. In fact, the CDC shared a draft with the AFT at least two weeks before finalizing the document and solicited the union’s feedback.
- Director Walensky personally managed the process for receiving and implementing the AFT’s edits to the Operational Strategy. Her involvement was contrary to the CDC’s practice to keep draft guidance documents confidential.
- The AFT’s edits were intended to make it more likely that schools would close to in-person learning. The CDC included the AFT’s language in the final Operational Strategy, almost word for word.
- A Biden Administration lawyer repeatedly prevented a career CDC doctor from answering questions about whether and why the CDC allowed AFT to write portions of the Operational Strategy.
- Teachers’ unions, including AFT, donated more than $43 million to liberal groups and candidates during the 2020 election cycle. The two largest unions—which both endorsed then-candidate Biden for President—have approximately 4.7 million members.
Read the Republican interim report here.