Democrats blast Trump’s move to suspend WHO funding
Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday strongly denounced President Trump’s decision to suspend funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, saying that it ignored the administration’s own mistakes in its response to the global pandemic.
While speaking at a briefing on the White House lawn, Trump said that the administration would halt funding for the WHO pending a review of the organization’s “role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.”
The president claimed that the international body, which is part of the United Nations, “failed to adequately obtain, vet and share information in a timely and transparent fashion” and targeted the group over its opposition to large-scale travel restrictions.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement that the move “makes as much sense as cutting off ammunition to an ally as the enemy closes in.”
“The White House knows that it grossly mishandled this crisis from the beginning, ignoring multiple warnings and squandering valuable time, dismissing medical science, comparing COVID-19 to the common cold, and saying ‘everything will be fine,'” Leahy, who also serves on the subcommittee overseeing foreign operations, added. “Not wanting to take responsibility as the deaths continue to mount, he blames others.”
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), an outspoken critic of the president, said in a tweet that the announcement felt like a “distraction.” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) called it a “grade school caliber attempt to deflect attention from his China fawning and his ongoing negligence since.”
“He wants this to be about other countries so he doesn’t have to explain why South Korea and the USA got hit with their first cases at the same time, but South Korea prevented mass deaths,” Schatz added.
Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Reps. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Jesús García (D-Ill.) echoed those remarks, with Bass calling the move an “abdication of international responsibility and leadership.”
“International cooperation on public health has never been more critical,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) tweeted. “Freezing funding for the WHO will only make it worse.”
The U.S. is the biggest contributor to the WHO’s budget in the world. Trump’s fiscal 2021 budget request proposed cutting funding from $122 million to about $58 million.
Amid scrutiny over his administration’s own response to the outbreak, Trump earlier this month began targeting the WHO and suggesting that it hid information about the severity of the disease when it first began spreading in China. Republican lawmakers have vocally supported the president’s position, with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) last week vowing to end funding for the WHO under its current leadership.
Leahy acknowledged that the WHO made mistakes in its early response, saying that it “could have been stricter with China and called for travel restrictions sooner.” But he argued that the group is serving an “essential function” right now and needs U.S. support.
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