Rep. Markwayne Mullin, a Republican from Oklahoma, grilled ousted vaccine director Rick Bright on his current job position, and questioned why he needs medical leave for his hypertension now, although he did not have issues with hypertension while he served as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).
Mullin also questioned which department is currently paying Bright’s salary.
Here’s the exchange:
Mullin: “But if you’ve been on medical leave you are too sick to do that but you can prepare for a two hour hearing. I am having a hard time tracking it and understanding it. If you have hypertension and you are too sick to go to NIH but you did not experience that at Barta, right? You never had issues in Barta with hypertension?”
Bright: “I didn’t have the level of stress from being removed from my position. This has been very stressful.”
Mullin: “I get that people handle pressure differently. You are in quite a stressful position when you are trying to manage pandemic but you can’t manage that, well you could manage that, but you can’t manage your own hypertension because you got removed from the office but yet you can still receiving pay from NIH, but you can’t show up for work, and then also you can prepare for this but you can’t do that.”
Bright later confirmed to subcommittee Chairwoman Anna Eshoo that he is on accrued vacation leave today.
Some context: HHS issued a statement today saying in part, “Mr. Bright has not yet shown up for work, but continues to collect his $285,010 salary, while using his taxpayer-funded medical leave to work with partisan attorneys who are politicizing the response to COVID-19.”