Democrat Senators Join Call to Press Biden on Coronavirus Origin Investigation

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez delivers remarks at the Kaplen Jewish Community Center on the Palisades during a rally against recent bomb threats made to jewish centers, Friday, March 3, 2017, in Tenafly, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
AP/Julio Cortez

Democrat Sens. Bob Menendez (NJ) and Mark Warner (VA) join the ongoing calls from Republicans to pressure President Joe Biden on the Chinese coronavirus origin investigation.

The Democrats joined Republican Sens. James Risch (ID) and Marco Rubio (FL) in a letter to Biden saying, “The threat to international health and security posed by the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) repressive and opaque governance of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has become glaringly apparent over the past 18 months.”

The group of senators slammed the PRC for their “refusal to cooperate with the World Health Organization (WHO) investigation into COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] origins, [and] the gag order it imposed on Chinese scientists and medical personnel.” They added that the “ongoing obfuscation and disinformation campaign regarding the pandemic have caused severe hardship worldwide.”

The senators believe that “addressing gaps in international pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response, including within our own government, three crucial steps are necessary to prevent a similar calamity in the future” as the United States starts to come out of lockdowns across the country from the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.

“Identifying where the virus originated and how it first spread will be critical to preventing future pandemics,” they wrote. They mentioned that if Biden’s initial 90-day effort does not get a confident conclusion, they will again “urge [Biden] to direct the intelligence community to continue prioritizing this inquiry until such conclusions are possible.”

The investigation, the group wrote, should address the efforts from the PRC to “prevent international inquiries into the origins of SARS-CoV-2, and other actions PRC authorities to taken to obscure the nature of the virus and its transmission.” The group wrote about the range of what they want to be reviewed:

As part of a formal review, we therefore urge [Biden] to analyze the following: any direct or indirect U.S. taxpayer funding or engagement with entities in China, including the WIV [Wuhan Institute of Virology], regarding gain-of-function research of other forms of research related to viruses, pathogens, and toxins; whether any such research for civilian purpose was diverted for military research; any U.S. taxpayer funding that was used to support gain-of-function research in China during the U.S. moratorium on such research from 2014-2017; and steps taken, if any, to apply additional scrutiny to direct or indirect U.S. government funding, including sub-grants, to support gain-of-function studies in China, including at WIV, and the U.S. government lifted the moratorium on gain-of-function research in 2017.

They expect, as members of Congress, to be fully informed of any finding, in addition to being ready to work together in a “bipartisan manner to seek answers to these important questions” the group would like answered.

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