Months After Biden Claimed to Defund Wuhan Lab, Senate Republicans Move To Finish The Job

The Wuhan Institute / Getty Images
December 13, 2023

The Chinese lab widely considered to be the source of the coronavirus had access to federal funds for months after the White House claimed to have cut them off. That could now change, thanks to Senator Joni Ernst.

The Iowa Republican attached an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which the Senate passed late Wednesday, banning the Department of Defense from providing funds to the Wuhan Institute of Virology lab or its U.S. partner, EcoHealth Alliance. The press proclaimed in July the Biden administration cut the Wuhan Institute of Virology off from federal funding, but the measure only blocked funding from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Ernst told the Washington Free Beacon it is "absolutely ridiculous" that the Wuhan lab had so many avenues to federal funding.

"Who would have thought that Department of Defense dollars would be funding experimentation in China," Ernst said. "It’s really unbelievable."

Ernst’s amendment requires the Pentagon to determine whether any of the $46 million it has doled out to EcoHealth Alliance since 2008 went to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The measure mandates a 10-year audit to determine how much money has been diverted to the Wuhan lab and other Chinese institutions for the study of deadly viruses.

EcoHealth Alliance infamously gave $600,000 in taxpayer funds to the Wuhan Institute of Virology prior to the pandemic to study viruses closely related to the virus that causes COVID-19. The group worked closely with the first Chinese citizens known to have contracted the disease in 2019, including a researcher who specialized in modifying coronaviruses to bind to human cells. The funds EcoHealth Alliance granted to the Wuhan lab originated with grants from the National Institutes of Health.

The Government Accountability Office reported in April that limitations in government reporting make it impossible to determine the full extent of federal dollars that have been delivered to Chinese entities.

"With an audit, we’ll be able to see where dollars are going," Ernst said. "We need a handle on that and to make sure that our dollars are not going to experiments to enable China. This type of research could be used against us, and the Department of Defense needs to account for it."