GOP Monkeypox Test Probe Previews 2023 Health Oversight Agenda

  • GOP wants information on CDC, NIH virus response, research
  • Republican majority would put spotlight on scientific agencies

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Republican leaders of a House health panel are pushing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for answers on flaws in the agency’s initial response to the spread of monkeypox in the US.

The letter—sent Thursday by Energy and Commerce ranking member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), Brett Guthrie (Ky.), and Morgan Griffith (Va.)—showcases how Republicans’ oversight agenda for 2023 is increasingly focused on public health agencies like the CDC and their failures in responding to the spread of Covid-19 and monkeypox.

The trio asked in the letter about the “flawed CDC diagnostic testing procedures for monkeypox virus” and noted it “follows a similar CDC breakdown during the pandemic response” to Covid.

Earlier in 2022, testing for monkeypox was severely limited, with government labs administering as few as 23 tests per day in June. The problem echoed missteps in early 2020 that delayed development of tests to detect Covid-19. In both 2020 and 2022, public health officials couldn’t properly track the spread of viruses in the US due to the flawed rollout of testing platforms.

Photo: Karen Ducey/Getty Images
A research scientist sets up an instrument that extracts DNA for Monkeypox virus testing at the UW Medicine Virology Laboratory on July 12, 2022, in Seattle, Wash.

House Republicans have launched or renewed several probes into various public health agencies in recent weeks, and signaled a willingness to question public health officials on their decisions around pressing research and biomedical issues.

Earlier: Republicans Try to Jump-Start Probes Into Biden’s Covid Response

If Republicans next year take the majority in the House, which appears likely, they’re poised to shift the focus from mistakes made by the Trump administration on Covid response to ways the Biden administration has fallen short.

Public Safety Focus

Democrats in April 2020 created the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis to investigate the Trump administration’s response to the Covid pandemic. That panel recently released a report outlining how the CDC agreed to the Trump administration’s demands to change the editorial process of its weekly scientific journal.

Republicans are focusing their oversight less on the White House’s relationship with scientific agencies like the CDC and more on public safety issues.

Rodgers, Guthrie, and Griffith this week wrote to the National Institutes of Health asking about research into monkeypox that potentially involved making a version of the virus that was more lethal to mice.

“The risk-benefit ratio indicates potentially serious risks without clear civilian practical applications,” they said in the letter.

Similarly, Republican Reps. Kevin Brady (Texas), Mike Kelly (Pa.), and Lloyd Smucker (Pa.) wrote Thursday to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, asking for data on nursing home deaths in states where health agencies directed organizations to accept people who might have been infected with Covid.

“The American people deserve a government that is accountable, which is especially critical when decisions are made that may have resulted in additional transmission of the COVID-19 virus and the loss of thousands of American lives,” they said in the letter.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Ruoff in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anna Yukhananov at; Sarah Babbage at

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