The split screen scenes of the hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and a ceremony at the Supreme Court honoring the life of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — just blocks away from each other — was a striking Washington image.
Opening the hearing, Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the committee, urged Congress to start planning for the next pandemic, warning that experts say one could come as soon as next year. “We must act now to stop the cycle of panic, neglect, panic,” he said.
Senator Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate Health Committee, told Dr. Hahn, the F.D.A. commissioner, and Dr. Redfield, director of the C.D.C., that she intends to question them about Mr. Trump’s attempts to undermine them and “sabotage the work of our scientists and public health experts for his own political advantage.”
The Senate hearing follows upheaval within the federal Department of Heath and Human Services, whose top spokesman, Michael R. Caputo, took medical leave last week after delivering an outlandish rant on Facebook Live in which he accused C.D.C. scientists of sedition, promoted conspiracy theories and warned of armed revolt.
Mr. Caputo’s Facebook appearance came after the revelation that he and his science adviser, Dr. Paul Alexander, had tried to pressure the agency to revise or delay its weekly scientific reports. Dr. Alexander has since left the department. Democrats will almost certainly use the hearing to question Dr. Redfield about those events.
Dr. Redfield will likely also face questions about guidelines for testing issued last month that suggested certain people exposed to the virus did not need to be screened. Internal documents show the guidance had been posted on the C.D.C.’s website despite serious objections from agency scientists, and the agency reversed it last week.
Lawmakers are likely to question Dr. Hahn about the F.D.A.’s plan to issue stricter guidelines for the emergency authorization of any new coronavirus vaccine, which would add a new layer of caution to the vetting process even as Mr. Trump has insisted a vaccine will be ready as early as next month. The guidelines may be formally released as early as this week if approved by the White House, and would recommend that clinical trial data be vetted by a committee of independent experts before the F.D.A. takes action, according to several people familiar with the draft.