(USA Features) Top Republican senators are siding with President Donald Trump’s call to freeze U.S. aid to the World Health Organization after the agency appeared to defer to China too much regarding the coronavirus pandemic.
WHO officials are being blamed for being too deferential to Beijing, which led the agency to delay warnings about COVID-19, the president and a number of GOP lawmakers have said.
The president blasted WHO at the White House coronavirus briefing Tuesday for failing to support a travel ban that he implemented in January to limit the spread of the virus to the U.S. Coronavirus originated in Wuhan city, China, multiple outlets have reported or confirmed.
Trump then raised the specter of placing a “very powerful hold” on the “vast amounts” of U.S. aid funding that goes to the global health agency.
Later, he walked back the remark when pressed by a reporter about whether it seemed like a good to freeze funding.
“I’m not saying I’m going to do it, but we are going to look at it,” Trump said, adding that it will be something his administration will “investigate.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham later told Fox News he supported Trump’s suggestion.
“I’m going to take the burden off the president — in the next appropriations bill, there’s not going to be any money for the WHO,” the South Carolina Republican said. “I’m in charge of the Appropriations Subcommittee, and I’m not going to support funding the WHO under its current leadership.”
Graham said the WHO was composed of “Chinese apologists” and had been “deceptive” and “slow.” He said, “I don’t think they’re a good investment under the current leadership for the United States.”
The Senate Judiciary chairman added that he believed it was “in America’s best interests to withhold funding” until “they change their behavior and get new leadership.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, added that he would “work with the Trump administration to ensure the WHO is independent and has not been compromised by the CCP before we continue our current funding.”
“The Chinese Communist Party used the WHO to mislead the world,” the Florida Republican said. “The organization’s leadership is either complicit or dangerously incompetent.”
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu has been routinely criticized for being too deferential to China, as well as for opposing travel bans against the country.
Tedros argued in late January that “there is no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade” and “the WHO doesn’t recommend limiting trade and movement.”