The Congressional Research Service, a non-partisan support agency for members of Congress, is suggesting lawmakers consider alternatives to the World Health Organization, from which President Trump withdrew after its failed coronavirus response.

The White House argues the WHO “repeatedly parroted the Chinese government’s claims that the coronavirus was not spreading between humans, despite warnings by doctors and health officials that it was.”

Further, the world body kept information about the Chinese virus from the public, then “praised the Chinese government’s response” and later decided “the coronavirus did not pose a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.”

President Trump on Jan. 28 restricted travel from China then moved to withdraw from the WHO, a process scheduled to be completed in July.

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Still disputed is whether or not the U.S. will owe any financial payments during the process of withdrawal.

The CRS offered alternatives for advancing U.S. global health priorities.

“Given the Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw the United States from WHO, members of Congress may consider alternative means for the United States to engage in global health diplomacy,” the report said. “For example, the Trump Administration is weighing the creation of a new Preparedness Initiative for Pandemics and Emergency Response (PIPER) fund that would be intended to leverage bilateral, multilateral, and private-sector funds to combat pandemics.

“In addition, in May 2020 Senators Risch, Murphy, and Cardin introduced S. 3829, the Global Health Security and Diplomacy Act of 2020, which, among other provisions, requires the president to maintain and advance a comprehensive Global Health Security Strategy, calls on the Secretary of State to enter into negotiations to establish a Trust Fund for Global Health Security within the World Bank, and authorizes U.S. participation in and funding for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a global partnership between public, private, and civil society organizations that works to accelerate the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases.”

The White House argued the WHO “put political correctness over life-saving measures by opposing travel restrictions” at the outset of the Wuhan virus outbreak.

The president placed a hold on funding WHO while pointing out that the U.S. typically has paid hundreds of millions of dollars annually, while China has paid only one-tenth of that amount.

The agreement through which the U.S. joined the WHO contains a specific provision for dropping out, although it doesn’t specify the process. It doesn’t require congressional action.

The White House said it wants to reform the organization, improve data sharing and hold member states accountable for their actions.

It also wants to counter China’s “outsized influence.”

The State Department charged the WHO “has failed badly … not only in its response to COVID-19, but to other health crises in recent decades. In addition, WHO has declined to adopt urgently needed reforms, starting with demonstrating its independence from the Chinese Communist Party.”

The final separation is scheduled for July 6, 2021, and the State Department said the government has been working to identify new partners to continue addressing global health issues.

The New York Times reported the Trump administration already redirected $62 million earmarked for the WHO to other health programs under the auspices of the United Nations.

The funds are to be spent on children’s immunization and influenza surveillance.

One State Department official said the U.S. could halt its withdrawal from the WHO if the organization carried out reforms required by the president, such as distancing itself from China’s ruling Communist Party.

But subsequent reports said the WHO refused to make the changes.


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