- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2020

A group of Republican lawmakers on Tuesday penned a letter to the World Health Organization requesting information about the United Nations-backed agency’s initial response to the coronavirus pandemic as criticism mounts of China’s alleged early efforts to downplay the spread of the highly contagious virus.

The letter, signed by Republican Sens. Todd Young of Indiana, Rick Scott of Florida, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Martha McSally of Arizona, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Steve Daines of Montana and Joni Ernst of Iowa, seeks answers on what the group called a “failed and delayed response” to the outbreak.

“American taxpayers fund the WHO, and it is up to us to make sure those taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely,” the lawmakers wrote.

The senators requested answers to questions on when the organization was first made aware of the virus, who led coordination with China’s response to the outbreak, and whether WHO leadership earned additional financial compensation outside of their salaries during the pandemic. They also requested copies of all coronavirus-related records and documents from WHO leadership between Oct. 1 and March 21.

Also Tuesday, Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican, unveiled legislation aimed at holding “the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) responsible for causing the COVID-19 global pandemic.”

His legislation would authorize an international investigation into China’s alleged downplaying of the virus at its earliest stages.

“There is overwhelming evidence that the Chinese Communist Party’s lies, deceit, and incompetence caused COVID-19 to transform from a local disease outbreak into a global pandemic,” Mr. Hawley said in a statement. “The CCP unleashed this pandemic. They must be held accountable to their victims.”

The actions come less than a week after Mr. Yong, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Multilateral Institutions, called on the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to testify before the panel on the organization’s response to coronavirus and the U.S.’ financial contribution to the agency.

The U.S. government provided nearly 15% of WHO’s $5.6 billion budget for 2018 and 2019 — $237 million through assessments and $656 million in voluntary payments, according to Science magazine.

Last week, President Trump criticized Mr. Tedros for waiting too long to call the outbreak a pandemic and said he was considering a freeze or cut in U.S. financial support.

Mr. Tedros, an Ethiopian microbiologist who has been a prime target of Republican-led anger, told reporters in a virtual press conference following Mr. Trump’s comments that the world cannot afford to be divided at this moment and suggested that the president’s threats were misguided and dangerous.

• Lauren Toms can be reached at lmeier@washingtontimes.com.

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