Sen. Cassidy Questions Agency Heads: 'How Many Days in the Last 5 Were You Physically in Your Office?'

( – “There’s a perception that your agencies are under-performing,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) told CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, Food and Drug Administrator Robert Califf and Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O’Connell on Thursday.

Those three, along with Dr. Anthony Fauci, urged the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to approve emergency supplemental funding to continue fighting the COVID pandemic.

Sen. Cassidy told the COVID team: “What we’re hearing is that there has to be more money appropriated and dire consequences if not allocated. That begs the question of the stewardship of the current dollars being allocated. Now, so I personally think, I think others agree, physically showing up to work is important.

Cassidy asked three of the four witnesses a very simple question: “How many many days in the last month were you physically in your office?”

“The vast majority of those days,” O’Connell responded.


“Can you give me a number?” asked the frustrated senator. “I’ve never been able to get a straight answer from one of you as to how many days you are in the office and what is the return to work policy. Just give me — how many days this past week, and if it’s five, I’m pleased,” Cassidy asked.

“So, HHS has continued its return to work, starting in April. We’re bringing everybody back–” O’Connell started to say.

Cassidy cut in: “No, how many days have you personally been in your office this last week?”

“Multiple days,” said O’Connell.

He could not get a straight answer.

“This is not hard to remember,” Cassidy said, noting he was simply asking about the past five days. “If you dissemble, it makes me think you’ve not been in the office and you don’t want to give me a straight answer.”

Cassidy said he was speaking on behalf of American taxpayers who pay the COVID team’s salaries, “and they think people aren’t showing up to work.”

He tried again: “How many days in the last five were you physically in your office?”

“We continue to work–” O’Connell started to say, but Cassidy cut her off and turned to FDA Administrator Califf, asking him how many of the last five days he’s been in the office when he had five-day week without family obligations:

“Five — every day when I’ve been in Washington and not on business travel, I go into the office at White Oak,” Califf said.

“So, are you either doing business travel on the part of FDA…but if not, you’re physically in your office?” Cassidy asked.

“Yes, except for family events,” Califf said.

Cassidy asked the same question of Dr. Walensky: “How many days in the last five were you physically in your office?”

“So, I’m not at my office today, but I feel like I’m working on site–” Walensky started to say. Cassidy repeated the question.

“I believe I’m working on site,” Walensky said. “So I have been in — I’ve been traveling so I’ve been in my office two (days) and I’ve been traveling for two.”

Cassidy asked her, “So, in the last month, do you typically work out of Washington or your home in the Northeast?” Cassidy asked her.

“We’re an agency at CDC (they spoke over each other)…on-the-job work. In fact, some of our work in in your state,” Walensky told Cassidy.

After asking a few questions about the various return-to-work policies, Cassidy concluded: “There’s a perception that your agencies are under-performing. Now, if you’re under-performing and you’re not showing up, that is not good stewardship,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy noted that Elon Musk is ordering Tesla workers to resume full-time work — at their place of work. “You don’t ship a great product by phoning it in,” Cassidy quoted Musk as saying.

“You’re asking for more money and, Miss O’Connell, you suggested that there is tough trade-offs to be made. That, by golly, if you don’t give us money, something’s going to be sacrificed.

“I suspect you haven’t laid off a single person. I also know that you have the ability to monitor the at-home work history as to whether or not they’re actually logging on. I’d be interested in seeing that data,” Cassidy said.

“But you’ve got maintenance people who haven’t been employed for two and a half years, and I suspect they’ve not been laid off. But you’re asking for more taxpayer dollars, asking tough choices for that family at home trying to make their balance work, and yet it seems as if there’s not a tight ship being run.”


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