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E&C Committee Leaders: Halting WHO Funding is Dangerous, Irresponsible and Undermines the Pandemic Response Around the World

Apr 23, 2020
Press Release
In letter to OMB Acting Director Vought, E&C Chairs demand justification for Trump’s reckless suspension of WHO funding during ongoing pandemic

Washington, D.C. – Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO) sent a letter to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Acting Director Russell Vought today demanding an explanation for President Trump’s decision to suspend funding for the World Health Organization (WHO).  In the letter, the Committee leaders call Trump’s unilateral decision dangerous and irresponsible, an effort to undermine congressional authority and an apparent attempt to distract the public from the Trump Administration’s own coronavirus response failures. 

“We write to express serious concerns about President Trump’s decision to suspend funding for the WHO, an agency of the United Nations that coordinates international public health work and a key ally of the United States and countries around the world in the fight against the coronavirus disease,” the Committee leaders wrote OMB Acting Director Vought.  “In addition to undermining congressional authority, the President’s unilateral decision to halt funding for WHO during the most severe public health crisis in a century is dangerous and irresponsible.  It is also a blatant attempt to scapegoat WHO for the Trump Administration’s own failures in its response to the global pandemic.”  

Until recently, Trump had praised our nation’s strong working relationship with WHO in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  However, as criticism of the Trump Administration’s COVID-19 response mounted, Trump began deflecting blame toward WHO and abruptly suspended funding for the agency.

Since announcing the funding suspension, Trump has continued his distorted attacks against WHO, suggesting its guidance had “failed” to control the spread of COVID-19 and alleging that WHO had engaged in a “cover up for China.” 

“There is no justification for suspending funding for WHO in the midst of a pandemic,” the members continued in their letter.  “Given the unprecedented public health challenges we are currently facing, the Trump Administration must explain how its decision to halt funding of WHO at this particular moment furthers U.S. public health interests.”

In order to understand how the Administration decided to suspend U.S. funding for WHO and to assess the potential public health impact, the Energy and Commerce Committee leaders requested answers to a series of questions and key documents on the decision-making process, including:

  • Whether key U.S. agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or Department of State, were consulted prior to making the decision to suspend WHO funding. 
  • A complete description of the legal authority pursuant to which the Administration intends to execute the WHO funding suspension. 
  • A complete description of when the WHO funding suspension took or will take effect, and the precise amount of funding to be withheld as a result of the suspension.
  • Copies of any assessments conducted regarding the potential impact the suspension of funding would have on both the global and U.S. responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Administration’s policy rationale for instituting the funding suspension during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including how the decision and its timing are necessary to achieve the Administration’s “reopening” goals. 

To read the letter, click HERE.