Did Secretary Becerra Mislead Congressional Committee? HHS Doesn’t Want the Public to Know

Did Secretary Becerra Mislead Congressional Committee? HHS Doesn’t Want the Public to Know

  • October 27, 2022
Agency appears unwilling to provide documents submitted in response to Secretary’s “challenge”

Today, watchdog Protect the Public’s Trust announced litigation against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). HHS has refused to comply with its legal obligations related to a request for documents that could shed light on whether Secretary Xavier Becerra was truthful in testimony to Congress earlier this year.

On consecutive days in late April, Secretary Becerra testified before the Health Subcommittee to the House Energy and Commerce Committee as well as the House Ways and Means Committee. During each appearance he denied awareness of a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) proposal involving the creation and implementation of an anti-racism plan. The proposal appears consistent with an executive order issued on the first day of the Biden Administration.

In response to a question from Representative Gary Palmer at the first of these hearings, Secretary Becerra stated, “I would challenge you to show me where in our policies we call anything we are doing anti-racism policies.” The next day the Secretary replied to an inquiry from Representative Jason Smith by stating, “If you can point to me where there is a so-called ‘anti-racism’ plan, I can respond.” PPT accepted Secretary Becerra’s “challenge.” To gather evidence of whether the Secretary’s claimed lack of knowledge of such a plan was genuine, Protect the Public’s Trust filed a Freedom of Information Act request with HHS. The watchdog sought records of communications involving Secretary Becerra and two top deputies that included the term “anti-racism.” In the nearly five months since, HHS has provided no additional information.

“The American public needs to be assured they can trust the statements of those at the highest levels of power who create, implement, and oversee the policies that affect their lives and how the funds they remit as taxes are spent,” declared Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust. “We gladly accepted Secretary Becerra’s challenge, but HHS does not appear willing to honor their obligations, even when presented with a very narrowly targeted request. It’s little wonder that trust in government continues to spiral downward.”