The Wuhan Institute of Virology in China has been at the center of speculation that it served as the source of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.
In the U.S., the federal government has faced its own criticism over reports that taxpayer dollars had gone to the Chinese lab by way of grant money — but that might not happen in the future if one Republican senator has her way.
“To discover the source of the outbreak”
The U.S. funding had gone through the National Institutes of Health for distribution to non-profit research groups.
An amendment passed this week in the U.S. Senate, however, would prohibit any U.S. federal funding for a state-run Chinese lab.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced the amendment, which was attached to the Endless Frontiers Act. That bipartisan bill represents an effort to confront and compete with China and Ernst’s amendment passed without vocal opposition.
Ernst touted the impact of the legislation in remarks on the Senate floor.
“After COVID appeared in the vicinity of the Wuhan Institute, instead of cooperating … to discover the source of the outbreak, Chinese officials instead ordered the destruction of some of the coronavirus samples and blocked access to the lab,” she said.
“Goes against the very purpose of the underlying bill”
The Iowa Republican concluded that her “amendment would ensure not another dime of taxpayer dollars goes, spent subsidizing communist China.”
The evenly divided Senate is still considering numerous other amendments, however, so debate surrounding the bill could still erupt into a partisan fight that ultimately derails the entire measure.
Ernst’s office issued a press release on Tuesday in which she reiterated her earlier remarks.
“Providing additional U.S. funds to subsidize any state-run lab in China — especially the Wuhan Institute of Virology — goes against the very purpose of the underlying bill, which is to support more research in the U.S. to better compete with China,” she wrote.
Ernst has been a vocal critic of U.S. funding for the Wuhan institute since the early months of the pandemic. Last month, she penned an op-ed for Newsweek in which she pointed out that the Chinese lab had received $600,000 in grant money from the NIH through a non-profit organization.