Graham backs Trump, vows no money for WHO in next funding bill

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Tuesday pledged to cut funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Congress’s next appropriations bill unless it makes changes to its leadership.

Graham said during an appearance on Fox News that he would use his position as chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee overseeing foreign operations to ensure the WHO did not get funding from the U.S.

“I’m not going to support funding the WHO under its current leadership,” Graham said. “They’ve been deceptive, they’ve been slow, and they’ve been Chinese apologists. I don’t think they’re a good investment under the current leadership for the United States, and until they change their behavior and get new leadership, I think it’s in America’s best interest to withhold funding because they have failed miserably when it comes to the coronavirus.”

Graham’s comments came as President Trump on Tuesday repeatedly threatened to cut funding for the WHO, a body of the United Nations responsible for international public health, citing its response to the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

The president said during a White House coronavirus task force briefing that the organization deserves criticism over its handling of the coronavirus, claiming it seemed “very biased towards China,” where COVID-19 originated.

“We’re going to put a very powerful hold on it, and we’re going to see. It’s a great thing if it works, but when they call every shot wrong, that’s not good,” Trump said before backtracking and saying that he is still considering the move at this time. 

Graham said on Fox News that he would “take the burden off the president” by cutting funding to the WHO.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the vice chairman of the panel, did not immediately return requests for comment from The Hill. 

The U.S. is the biggest contributor to the WHO’s budget in the world. Trump’s fiscal 2021 budget request proposed cutting funding $122 million to about $58 million.

The WHO has continually voiced warnings about the dangers of the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in Wuhan, China, last December. The organization declared that the virus’s outbreak was a public emergency of international concern in January and then declared it was a pandemic in mid-March. 

But the organization said in early February that widespread travel bans were not necessary to prevent the outbreak. Trump on Tuesday accused the WHO of disagreeing with his decision to enforce travel restrictions on incoming flights from China. 

His comments came as more Republican lawmakers argue that China and the WHO deserve much of the blame for the global spread of COVID-19.

Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) last week called for WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to resign, saying that the organization participated in a Chinese cover-up on coronavirus data. 

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) has also called for a congressional probe into the WHO, accusing it of “helping Communist China cover up” the full extent of the virus’s spread.

Trump has faced continued scrutiny over his initial skepticism about how dangerous the COVID-19 outbreak could be. Asked on Tuesday about remarks he made in February in which he suggested the virus would disappear on its own, Trump said, “Well, the cases really didn’t build up for a while.”

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump Lindsey Graham Martha McSally Patrick Leahy Richard Shelby WHO World Health Organization

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