‘Paying The Arsonist’: Biden's COVID Test Contract With China Draws Ire on Capitol Hill

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January 28, 2022

The Biden administration’s decision to award over a billion dollars to a Chinese company that manufactures coronavirus test kits has prompted outrage from congressional Republicans.

Rep. Michael Waltz (R., Fla.) compared the Pentagon's decision to award a $1.3 billion contract to iHealth, a subsidiary of China’s Andon Health Co. Ltd. that will supply millions of COVID-19 tests to the United States, to "paying the arsonist for helping put out the fire." Waltz said he was concerned that the deal further endangers America’s supply chains and that the United States cannot be reliant on a hostile country such as China, where the virus originated.

After months of nationwide shortages of COVID tests in the wake of the Omicron variant surge, the Biden administration scrambled to purchase hundreds of millions of tests to send directly to Americans. The implementation has been riddled with failures, ranging from long wait times for the tests to logistical hurdles when delivering to large apartment buildings.

In announcing the contract with iHealth and two other companies, the Department of Defense said the administration will purchase almost 400 million kits in a deal that totaled nearly $2 billion. Rep. Don Bacon (R., Neb.) called the arrangement with a Chinese manufacturer "ridiculous" given China has "not been transparent one iota on what happened at Wuhan." Prior to the Pentagon contract, the FDA in December approved iHealth’s request to manufacture at-home COVID-19 tests for Americans.

President Joe Biden has been pressed to invoke the Defense Production Act to step up the ability of American companies to produce tests. White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said in December that it was unnecessary because American manufacturers were already "going full speed."

"The Defense Production Act can't make them go any more full speed than they're already going," Fauci said. 

Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) said awarding iHealth a lucrative DoD contract is the latest of the administration’s failures when it comes to the coronavirus.

"Joe Biden, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Walensky, and our federal health agencies’ handling of COVID-19 has been a complete failure," Johnson told the Washington Free Beacon. "The president has been eliminating American jobs since day one in office and this is another insult to American businesses who are suffering under the failure of his economic policies."

The federal iHealth contract follows tens of millions of dollars the company received from New York and Massachusetts for coronavirus tests. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.) called it a "dereliction of duty" by her home state and said New York governor Kathy Hochul (D.) and Biden are "putting our national security at risk while simultaneously lining the pockets of the Chinese Communist Party who is responsible for unleashing COVID-19 on the world and then covering it up."

Rep. Bryan Steil (R., Wis.) told the Free Beacon that the Biden administration should be "utilizing and assisting U.S. suppliers" rather than "outsourcing critical supplies from China."

The Chinese Communist Party treated the iHealth contract as a major propaganda victory. State-controlled media outlets used iHealth’s business in America to embarrass the Biden administration, arguing that the United States is reliant on China when it comes to health care.

The potential ramifications of routing millions of dollars to China for COVID tests could be long lasting, lawmakers warn. "When dealing with any Chinese company, all funds inevitably fill the coffers of the Chinese Communist Party and that hurts our national security," Waltz cautioned.