Biden Set To Cede Future Pandemic Response To WHO Next Month

News Image By Fred Lucas/Daily Signal April 19, 2024
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Congressional Republicans are calling on President Joe Biden to abandon plans for a pandemic treaty that would strengthen the World Health Organization, citing that global body's numerous failures during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., backed by about half of all Senate Republicans, signed a letter to Biden urging him to withdraw from two agreements with the World Health Organization that would boost its authority to declare public health emergencies and give it new powers over the U.S. and 193 other member states during such emergencies. 

The letter to the president from Senate Republicans also asks that he submit any such pandemic agreement with WHO--criticized for going easy on China during COVID-19--to the Senate for ratification. 

"China has far too much control over the WHO. We certainly don't want the WHO to control our individual health decisions," Johnson said at a press conference Thursday outside the Capitol, flanked by several House Republicans and other conservative leaders. 

"I have a bill that would deem any agreement between the Biden administration and the WHO a treaty to come before the Senate for debate and ratification. That is absolutely crucial," Johnson said. 

The Biden administration looks to commit the United States to the new global pandemic preparedness agreement, as well as to revised rules within the International Health Regulations adopted in 2005. 

The existing rules allow the World Health Organization, with the consent of member nations, to declare a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern." The amendment will allow WHO to do so over the objection of member nations. 

Even if the Biden administration tries to commit the United States to the agreement May 27 at the World Health Assembly--absent Senate ratification--at a minimum Congress can ensure that it doesn't go unnoticed, said Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C.

"We are going to expose it. They needed four months to get the amendments out there that are going to be considered on May 27," Norman told The Daily Signal as speakers took questions. "That's unacceptable. I've seen too many documents at the last minute. This is too important to let this go by."

Norman added that he is calling on Biden to be transparent with Americans about the pandemic agreements.  

"What I will ask him to do, and it will fall on deaf ears, is to show the American people exactly what you are submitting America to," Norman said. "Show us the fine print. Ladies and gentlemen, the devil is in the details of almost everything that my colleagues and I have to deal with. So exposure is what we can do right now, and he can lead the way as the leader of the free world. Do I think he will do it? No."

Earlier this month, the White House released a Global Health Security Strategy that says in part: 

The United States is supporting efforts to strengthen global policies and legal preparedness, including negotiating a pandemic agreement and targeted amendments to the IHR [International Health Regulations], as these two instruments have the potential to provide the international community with the opportunity to establish a shared path forward for preventing, preparing for, and responding to international health emergencies.

Nations that belong to the World Health Organization agreed in November 2021 to negotiate and draft an agreement based on WHO's constitution to strengthen pandemic prevention, according to the White House. 

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on global health, global human rights, and international organizations, also spoke at the press conference. 

"It remains unclear whether the Biden administration intends to submit this treaty agreement to the Senate for its constitutionally required advice and consent as a prerequisite for ratification," Smith said. "An executive agreement bypassing Senate ratification would be an egregious mistake."

In January 2022, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services proposed amendments to the International Health Regulations that would enable WHO's director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, to declare a public health emergency in any member nation--even over the objections of a member nation. 

"Every single day you wake up and say to yourself, 'Well, what more can it be? I can't believe what just happened,'" Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., said at the press conference. 

"They can't do anything else," Perry said, referring to the Biden administration. "As bad as it is in dealing with this government taking away our rights every single day, just imagine how difficult it is going to be to drag our rights back away from some international organization of bureaucrats that aren't even elected, that don't care about America, that don't care about our Constitution and don't care about what we think."

The change could provide unilateral authority to WHO's Tedros to declare a public health crisis in the United States or other countries, without consultation.

The proposed changes to the International Health Regulations would cede control to World Health Organization "regional directors." The regional directors would have authority to declare these types of emergencies, and WHO's chief could issue an "intermediate public health alert." The agreement also includes ways to control information about a pandemic. 

The World Health Organization covered up for the Chinese Communist Party at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak and should have less power, said Jenny Beth Martin, president of Tea Party Patriots Action. 

"There is not a single one-size-fits-all solution to health care in America. There is certainly not a one-size-fits-all solution to health care around the entire world," Martin said at the press conference. 

"What we saw during COVID, as states were able to compete with one another and show the differences in their policies, we saw which policies work the best," she said. "If we wind up having a one-size-fits-all solution for the entire world, we may never know the solution that actually is the best."

WHO came under withering criticism for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly for failing to send a team to China during the initial spread of the coronavirus that causes the disease, as required by the existing International Health Regulations.

Under the proposed agreement, the U.S. and other member nations would provide financial assistance to developing countries. Critics note that the United Nations continues to classify China as a developing country despite its large economy. 

Other provisions of the pandemic treaty would promote "sustainable and geographically diversified production" of vaccines and other pandemic-related products and require spending for research in developing countries. 

The agreement would establish a WHO Global Supply Chain and Logistics Network with international requirements for manufacturing and exporting pandemic-related products. It would create a new position called the "secretariat for the WHO pandemic agreement."

In the past, the World Health Organization and the United Nations have worked against the interests of the United States, Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, said. 

"This agreement would subject the United States to the powers of the World Health Organization without going through what we need to do in the Senate, without the people's representatives having a voice and ceding our sovereignty to these enemies who are undermining our national security and the interests of the United States," Roy said.

The Texas Republican later added: "When are we going to stop funding the organizations that are undermining our freedom?"

Originally published at The Daily Signal

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