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GOP senators: Tie WHO funding to cooperation with congressional probe

GOP senators: Tie WHO funding to cooperation with congressional probe
© Greg Nash

A group of Senate Republicans are requesting top members of the Senate Appropriations Committee tie any funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) to the international body cooperating with congressional investigations.

Five senators sent a letter to Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamPortman on Trump's dominance of GOP: Republican Party's policies are 'even more popular' Overnight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Graham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents MORE (R-S.C.) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyPress: The big loser: The Republican Party Senate acquits Trump in 57-43 vote Trump lawyer irked after senators laugh at him MORE (D-Vt.), the chairman and top Democrat on the subcommittee overseeing WHO funding, asking them to make any money included in a fiscal 2021 appropriations bill conditional.

"We urge you to condition funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) on its full and complete cooperation with Congress’s review and investigation of its response to the deadly novel Coronavirus, COVID-19," they wrote.

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"We respectfully request that these conditions allow funding for the WHO to be reduced or eliminated for FY 2021 if it fails to cooperate with Congress or the Administration so that this money may instead be redirected to other domestic and international healthcare programs and organizations," they added.

GOP Sens. Rick Scott (Fla.), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGraham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents Partisan headwinds threaten Capitol riot commission Cruz hires Trump campaign press aide as communications director MORE (Wis.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisMcConnell backs Garland for attorney general GOP senators demand probe into Cuomo's handling of nursing home deaths CNN anchor confronts GOP chairman over senator's vote to convict Trump MORE (N.C.), Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesIndigenous groups post billboards urging senators to confirm Deb Haaland Kennedy apologizes for calling Haaland a 'whack job' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Ahead: One-shot vax, easing restrictions, fiscal help MORE (Mont.) and Kevin CramerKevin John CramerSenate mulls changes to .9 trillion coronavirus bill On The Money: Manhattan DA obtains Trump tax returns | Biden nominee previews post-Trump trade agenda | Biden faces first setback as Tanden teeters OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate confirms former Michigan governor Granholm as Energy secretary | GOP bill would codify Trump rule on financing for fossil fuels, guns | Kennedy apologizes for calling Haaland a 'whack job' MORE (N.D.) signed the letter.

Trump announced earlier this month that he was pausing U.S. funding to the World Health Organization pending a review of its response to the coronavirus. Graham said at the time that he supports "a suspension of funding by the United States until there is new leadership at the WHO."

Republicans hold a 8-7 majority on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on state and foreign operations, meaning they could send a bill to the Appropriations Committee without Democratic support if every GOP senator votes for the bill. But a funding bill will need 60 votes, meaning bipartisan support, to ultimately pass the Senate.

Trump and his congressional allies have increasingly homed in on the WHO's handling of the coronavirus, accusing the health body of being overly acquiescent to China. Democrats warn that cutting off U.S. support will only strengthen Beijing's hand in the organization.

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Johnson, who chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Scott, a member of the committee, are pledging to probe the U.S. and international response to the coronavirus.

They sent a letter to the WHO earlier this month, saying they were requesting information ahead of a congressional hearing on the WHO's role in "helping the Chinese Communist Party cover up information regarding the threat of the Coronavirus." 

The senators added in their letter to Graham and Leahy that they support Trump's decision to suspend funding for the WHO and will "continue to support that decision unless and until the WHO agrees to cooperate fully and completely with Congress and the Administration."

"Congress must ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent in the best interest of Americans. Congress cannot continue to blindly appropriate funds to the WHO without assuring itself that any mistakes made during this outbreak will be identified and corrected," they added.

On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced that it would start to shift funding to other health-focused groups, marking an escalation in the president's fight with the WHO.