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E&C Leaders Seek Justification for President Trump’s Decision to Withdraw from WHO

Jul 8, 2020
Press Release
“The Administration has not provided a coherent public health justification for the President’s reckless decision and has failed to adequately explain the process by which this decision was reached.”

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) wrote to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Acting Director Russell T. Vought today requesting an explanation for President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization (WHO) during the global COVID-19 pandemic.  The Committee leaders also requested a response to a letter they sent to Acting Director Vought in April regarding President Trump’s sudden decision to suspend funding for WHO.  It has been more than two months since their initial letter, and the three Chairs have yet to receive a response from OMB. 

“Given the devastating nature of the ongoing public health crisis—which has now killed over 500,000 people worldwide, including over 130,000 Americans—we hoped the Administration would ultimately heed the advice of numerous U.S. public health experts and resume normal relations with WHO,” the Committee leaders wrote.  “Unfortunately, President Trump has doubled down on this ill-conceived policy.”

Last month, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testified before the Energy and Commerce Committee that they were not consulted about the President’s decision to withdraw from WHO.  Dr. Fauci also testified that he had concerns about the President’s decision but had not spoken with the President in over two weeks at the time.

“To date, the Administration has not provided a coherent public health justification for the President’s reckless decision and has failed to adequately explain the process by which this decision was reached,” the three Committee leaders continued in their letter to the OMB Acting Director.

The President’s decision to withdraw from WHO has been met with widespread condemnation by public health leaders who are concerned that the move will be a setback for scientific advancements, public health and global coordination efforts to defeat COVID-19.

“We share the serious concerns raised by numerous public health experts and are deeply troubled by President Trump’s disregard for the public health community, including leading public health experts in his own Administration,” the Committee leaders continued.  “To be clear, WHO—like other public health organizations navigating the rapidly evolving COVID-19 landscape—may make some mistakes.  But now more than ever, we must be certain that consequential decisions like this are based on sound public health guidance, and not the political pursuit of a scapegoat or misdirected frustrations.” 

The Committee leaders requested a complete response to their April letter as well as answers to a series of new questions and requests for information by July 22, including:

  • Were key U.S. public health agencies consulted about the potential public health impact of the President’s decision to withdraw from WHO?
  • Did the Administration conduct any assessments regarding the extent to which the United States withdrawing from WHO would impact both the global and U.S. responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the implications for longstanding international relationships and coordination between WHO and U.S. agencies?
  • A complete description of the process by which the Administration conducted its review of WHO leading up to the President’s decision to withdraw, including the federal departments, agencies or offices that were involved in the review and whether any contract consultants or non-governmental entities were involved and, if so, whom.
  • A complete description of how the President’s decision to withdraw from WHO and the timing of this decision are necessary to achieve the Administration’s “reopening” plan goals, including a complete description of how this decision will promote the development and expeditious distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine.

To read the full letter, click HERE.

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