A recently-introduced bipartisan Senate bill includes a provision calling on the United States to lead further investigations into COVID-19’s origins.
The provision, Section 214, also makes a push for the government to be more transparent with the American people about its prior funding of the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
“The personal toll and devastation from the COVID-19 pandemic demands accountability,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, who contributed to writing Section 214, to The Foreign Desk Thursday.
“We owe it to the American people to seek answers about the origins of this virus. As long as we don’t know the truth, our efforts to prevent another pandemic will be poorly informed.”
The bill, the Strategic Competition Act, was introduced by Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) Sen. Bob Menendez (D-Idaho) and Ranking Member of the SFRC Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho).
“Incredibly proud to announce we have reached agreement on an unprecedented bipartisan bill to allow the U.S. to fully confront the challenges China poses to our national and economic security,” the SFRC tweeted April 8.
Section 214 of the legislation expresses concern over the limited access granted to the World Health Organization (WHO) by China when conducting the initial investigation and emphasizes the importance of “independent experts” having “full access” to critical data.
Due to the “delayed” and incomplete nature of the WHO investigation, the bill calls on the U.S. government to re-examine whether the virus was leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and demands the government release all information already obtained to the American public “as appropriate.”
If the bill passes, the U.S. would also be expected to provide “a detailed accounting of United States engagement with the WIV and similar labs in the PRC specific to coronaviruses,” particularly related to government funding of gain-of-function research.
The COVID-19 outbreak has raised ethical concerns about gain-of-function research, which essentially involves making a pathogen more infectious in order to determine “the pandemic potential” of a virus, as explained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“The bill’s provision demands clarification about what our government knows. Answers to what remains unknown will require a credible investigation, which Beijing has repeatedly obstructed for over a year,” said Rubio.
The bill also addresses the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) global influence, including within American universities, and provides “a strategic approach towards Beijing so that the United States can effectively compete with China for decades to come,” explains Risch.