Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is calling for the panel to hold hearings on the Chinese government and World Health Organization’s (WHO) handling of the coronavirus outbreak, The Hill reported.
The Texas Republican has voiced strong concerns over the WHO’s initial response to the virus as well as disinformation spread at the start of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, arguing that congressional oversight could play a key role in preventing and preparing for future potential health crises.
“We have jurisdiction. We don’t have jurisdiction over the response efforts in the United States, but we certainly have jurisdiction over the World Health Organization, the United Nations, the China cover up — the Communist Party’s cover-up,” he said in a recent interview. “I think these are all areas where we should be holding oversight hearings.”
McCaul said he thinks launching probes into the Chinese government and the WHO’s potential missteps in handling the outbreak should garner support from members in both parties.
“Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and I have a very good relationship — he has indicated that he is open to the idea of having hearings on this and I think he should. Honestly, I don’t think it should be, this doesn’t have to be a partisan effort, I mean it’s almost like [Democrats are saying] ‘you can’t look at China if you’re gonna blame Trump for it’,” McCaul told The Hill.
“Well, we can look at the origination of this virus, in the cover-up, separate – apart from – the response efforts,” he added.
McCaul said he thinks “it’s a very legitimate function of the committee within its jurisdiction to hold oversight hearings” into the issue.
While top Republicans have largely applauded the President’s decision to take a hard line with the WHO over their response to the pandemic, Democrats have slammed the White House for halting WHO funding, arguing it is counterproductive in stopping the spread of COVID-19.
On Monday, Engel announced that the committee will launch an inquiry into the Trump administration’s move to halt funding to the WHO, while GOP lawmakers on the Foreign Affairs Committee have called on the administration to make the United States’ voluntary contributions to the organization contingent on the resignation of its Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
McCaul said he doesn’t fault Chinese citizens and isn’t against the WHO itself, but argued it is critical to obtain information on the organization’s efforts and their impact on the spreading outbreak.
“Just like I don’t blame the Chinese people, I think they’re good people, good culture, it’s their government that they’re a victim to – the same thing with WHO, it’s an important world organization that has a very significant role to play,” he said. “But its primary role is to monitor these situations and warn the world when there’s a virus like this.”
McCaul — who has also called on the State Department to conduct a probe into the origin of the virus and what he calls a potential cover-up — released a statement Tuesday calling for parties to come together to seek information that could help prevent future pandemics.
“The House Foreign Affairs Committee enjoys a tradition of bipartisanship. As RealClearPolitics said last year, our committee is an ‘island of calm in the sea of partisan enmity.’ And as Chairman Engel often states – and I agree – partisanship should stop at the water’s edge,” he said. “I have called upon the chairman to conduct a bipartisan investigation into the origins and spread of COVID-19.”