Politics & Policy

Bipartisan House Bills Would Launch COVID Origin Probe, Allow Victims’ Families to Sue Beijing

Security members keep watch outside the Wuhan Institute of Virology as members of the World Health Organization (WHO) arrive for a visit in Wuhan, China, February 3, 2021. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

U.S. House lawmakers are set to introduce two bipartisan bills on Friday that would launch an investigation into the origins of COVID-19 and would allow victims’ families to sue China, according to a new report.

The “Made in America Emergency Preparedness Act,” would form a 9/11-style bipartisan commission to investigate the origins of the pandemic. The bill is being introduced by five Democrats and five Republicans, according to Fox News.

Meanwhile, a second bill, the “Never Again International Outbreak Prevention Act” would allow families of COVID-19 victims to pursue legal action against China by taking away its sovereign immunity and that of any other countries “that have intentionally misled the international community on the outbreak.”

The latter bill will be introduced by Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.) and Conor Lamb (D., Pa.)

A press release announcing the first bill says the U.S. “must never again find ourselves caught off-guard, unable to protect our communities.”

“We should never again see nearly 600,000 American lives lost at risk and day to day life turned upside down,” the release adds. 

The commission would also be tasked with reviewing the response by the U.S. government and the private sector. It would advise precautionary steps to take moving forward.

The panel would also issue recommendations to the president regarding what personal protective equipment and other goods would be necessary to address a national emergency. It would then require the items to be manufactured in the U.S. 

“We simply cannot outsource our public safety and national security to foreign nations,” said Fitzpatrick, co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. “We must reconstitute our health care and public safety supply chain back to the United States. Medical products, protective equipment, pharmaceuticals, emergency response equipment and all other critical items and materials needed to respond to a national emergency must be produced domestically for domestic consumption, especially during a critical, time-sensitive crisis.” 

The introduction of the bill comes after President Biden said earlier this week that as U.S. intelligence officials have “coalesced around two likely scenarios” for how COVID-19 originated, he has tasked the intelligence community with redoubling their investigative efforts to bring the U.S. closer to a “definitive conclusion” within 90 days.

However, China on Tuesday said during a meeting of the World Health Assembly that it would not participate in or support further investigation into the virus’ origins as it believes the WHO’s initial investigation was complete.

“As we have seen from COVID-19, the Chinese Communist Party has been intentionally and maliciously misleading the rest of the world about the scope and spread of the novel coronavirus,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement about the second bill. 

Other international organizations such as the WHO must be held accountable for their “inaction” on the pandemic, he added.

“Congress needs to act now to ensure there are consequences for international players who behave like China did during the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak,” Lamb said in a statement. 

The bill would also launch a probe into the WHO’s response and require foreign nations to enact systems for reporting future outbreaks.

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