New US Bill Calls for Suspension of Federal Funding to WHO

New US Bill Calls for Suspension of Federal Funding to WHO
Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.) speaks in Washington on Dec. 13, 2019. (Patrick Semansky/Pool/Getty Images)
Frank Fang

U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.) has introduced a new bill to withhold federal funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) until its current Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus resigns.

“The WHO helped the Chinese Communist Party hide the threat of COVID-19 from the world and now more than 10,000 Americans are dead, a number that is expected to rise dramatically in the coming weeks,” said Reschenthaler in a press release from his office.

The bill, introduced on April 7, called for Ghebreyesus’ resignation and the establishment of an international commission to investigate the WHO—before any congressional funding should resume.

The U.S. lawmaker said that Chinese authorities covered up evidence of human-to-human transmission, which appeared as early as December 2019.
The WHO initially repeated Beijing’s claim that there was “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission” for the virus.
Reschenthaler added that the WHO delayed declaring a “public health emergency of international concern” until Jan. 30, when the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, was already spreading to several countries for more than a week.

The escalating pandemic began in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province. The virus has since spread to more than 200 countries and territories, and killed more than 85,600 outside of mainland China.

Reschenthaler said WHO was complicit in Beijing’s coverup. “Instead of working to save lives around the world, WHO stood by and downplayed the severity of the virus so as not to offend Chinese officials.”

The lawmaker also explained that the United States is the largest contributor to the WHO, making up “22 percent of the WHO’s assessed funds from member nations,” according to WHO data. The United States also provides voluntary funds to WHO through congressionally appropriated global health programs and humanitarian accounts.

On Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump pointed out the difference in the United States’ and China’s contributions to the WHO. According to State Department statistics, U.S. contributions exceeded $400 million, while China provided $44 million, in 2019.

Reschenthaler said he believed the money should no longer go to WHO, as “it is not right that Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars are being used to propagate China’s lies and hide information that could have saved lives.”

The bill has more than 20 co-sponsors, including Liz Cheney (R-Wy.), Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Brian Babin (R-Texas), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Greg Steube (R-Fla.), Jim Banks (R-Ind.), and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla).

“I hope my colleagues join me to hold WHO responsible for playing politics rather than focusing on its mission to coordinate global efforts on public health crises like the one we are currently experiencing,” Reschenthaler concluded.

Trump said at a Tuesday evening briefing that the United States would halt funding to the WHO.

Earlier that day, Trump tweeted: “The W.H.O. really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look.”

The President added: “Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?”

The United States banned travelers from China on Jan. 31.
That same day, the WHO said that countries should keep their borders open to China.
Dr. Bruce Aylward, Ghebreyesus’ senior advisor, defended WHO recommendations to keep borders open in February, saying China had worked “very hard” to identify and detect early cases and their contacts and ensure they did not travel.

David Heymann, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, told Reuters that any U.S. funding cut would be a huge blow to the organization.

“If the WHO loses its funding it cannot continue to do its work. It works on a shoe-string budget already,” Heymann said.

Reuters contributed to this report.
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers U.S., China, and Taiwan news. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.