The House Appropriations Committee has approved a ban on sending funding to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the Chinese lab at the heart of the controversy over the origin of the virus that sparked the COVID-19 pandemic.
"None of the funds made available by this Act may be made available to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, or any other laboratory located in a country determined by the Secretary of State to be a foreign adversary, including China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran," reads the amendment, which was proposed by Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).
While the committee said in a statement that DeLauro's amendment made "technical and noncontroversial" changes to the measure, the inclusion of the Wuhan facility is noteworthy, as it sends a signal that lawmakers are attuned to the controversy surrounding U.S. taxpayer dollars being channeled to the lab.
According to WCW, there are currently 32 animal labs in Russia and China eligible to receive U.S. taxpayer dollars.
Wuhan Lab Funding ControversyThe U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded a total of $1.1 million to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) between October 2009 and May 2019, the agency wrote in a May 2021 letter (pdf) to Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.).
The agency said the funds were channeled through EcoHealth Alliance and were meant for the purpose of advancing research on critical viruses that could pose a threat to humans. It also denied claims that the money was used for gain-of-function research, which seeks to boost viral lethality.
"USAID never authorized or funded any work that aimed to increase the ability of infectious agents to cause disease by enhancing its pathogenicity or by increasing its transmissibility (research known as “Gain of Function” studies) at WIV," the agency wrote in the letter.
'Preponderance of Evidence' for Lab LeakIn August 2021, a report by Republican lawmakers noted a "preponderance of evidence" for the theory that the virus that caused the COVID-19 pandemic leaked from the Wuhan lab.
Chinese officials have denied the lab leak claim, insisting that the virus made a natural jump from animals to humans.
U.S. intelligence agencies later said in a report that a natural origin and a lab leak are both plausible hypotheses as to the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that a lack of evidence makes a definitive conclusion either way impossible.
It's a sentiment echoed by McCaul in his testimony.
"Unfortunately, we may never know for certain because the Chinese Communist Party went to great lengths to cover up this outbreak," he said. "They detained the doctors in order to silence them. They disappeared journalists. They destroyed lab samples. They hid the fact there was clear evidence of human-to-human transmission. And they have refused to allow a real investigation into the origins."