Republican lawmakers advanced a bill Wednesday that would ban funding of research labs controlled by North Korea, China, and other adversarial nations. Democrats say the move will put America’s national security at risk.
The House Appropriations Committee approved the 2024 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Bill on Wednesday, a $52.5 billion appropriations measure that includes provisions prohibiting funding of any lab controlled by China, Russia, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela. The bill would also ban taxpayer funding of risky gain-of-function research meant to enhance deadly viruses and prohibit funding of the Wuhan Institute of Virology and EcoHealth Alliance, the two groups implicated in the widely accepted theory that the COVID-19 pandemic originated from a Chinese laboratory.
To Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee, led by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D., Conn.), these measures unravel "the hard-fought credibility and influence the United States has earned as a global leader," the lawmakers said in a press release Wednesday. "The bill threatens our national security and puts the American people and global health at risk," the Democrats added.
DeLauro accused Republicans during a markup hearing Wednesday of catering to the most "extreme" members of their caucus "at the expense of America’s historic position on the world stage."
"This bill makes us less safe, fails to address the climate crisis, and opens the door for China and Russia to fill the gaps we would leave behind should this bill be enacted," DeLauro said.
The Democratic attacks come the same week the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic released emails showing that former National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci was aware as early as February 1, 2020, that Chinese scientists in Wuhan were engaged in risky gain-of-function experiments on bat viruses prior to the pandemic. Fauci would later vehemently deny during several congressional hearings that his agency, which provided $600,000 in subgrants to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, financed gain-of-function research in Wuhan before the pandemic.
The subcommittee also released a trove of emails showing that many of the scientists that published an influential paper in March 2020 casting the lab leak theory as a baseless conspiracy privately believed at the time that the theory was credible.
This is not the first time House Democrats have attacked Republicans for seeking to cut funding for labs run by adversarial nations. House Appropriations Committee Democrats lobbed an identical attack when Republicans introduced the funding bill in June.
The bill "funds global health but curtails partnerships with the rest of the world by … prohibiting funding for the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the EcoHealth Alliance, gain of function research, and any lab controlled by China, Russia, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela," the Democrats said in the June 22 press release.
National Republican Congressional Committee press secretary Will Reinert railed against the "shameful" attempt by House Democrats to secure funding for Chinese research labs.
"It’s shameful extreme House Democrats betray their country by demanding we send China more taxpayer money to help them kill the American dream," Reinert told the Washington Free Beacon.
DeLauro’s office did not return a request for comment.