In a resounding display of bipartisan solidarity on the eve of the third anniversary of the deadly pandemic outbreak, the House voted overwhelmingly on Friday to declassify US intelligence data regarding COVID-19’s origins.
The bill was finally approved by a vote of 419 to 0 and sent to President Joe Biden’s desk for signing.
According to a condensed and to-the-point debate, Americans are curious about how the fatal virus emerged and what can be done to stop future outbreaks.
Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, the head of the House Intelligence Committee, said, “The American public needs explanations for every facet of the COVID-19 outbreak.
This includes “how this virus was formed and, in particular, whether it was a natural occurrence or was the product of a lab-related incident,” he said.
The declassification order concentrated on information about China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, noting “possible linkages” between the research conducted there and the COVID-19 outbreak, which the World Health Organization proclaimed a pandemic in March 2020.
The likelihood that the fatal virus originated in a lab leak or an animal spillover is debated by U.S. intelligence officials.
More than 1 million Americans have died due to the coronavirus pandemic, and experts warn it may take years if ever, to determine its exact origin.
Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, stated during the discussion that “transparency is a cornerstone of our democracy.” But without transparency, the American people cannot speak up in a way that is appropriate for their role as citizens in a democracy.
Republicans are driving attention to the virus’s origins. The House established a select committee and held a hearing earlier this week to examine possible causes of the outbreak.
Notwithstanding the frequently acrimonious debate over the coronavirus’s origins and the doubts raised about the country’s reaction to the virus by U.S. health experts, notably former top health adviser Anthony Fauci, it offers a rare instance of bipartisanship.
Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri’s measure has already received approval.
If enacted, the bill would demand that “any information relating to potential linkages between the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the emergence of the Coronavirus Disease” be declassified within 90 days.
This includes details regarding the lab’s research and other activities and any illnesses that may have affected the researchers.