Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) told Breitbart News during a press conference Tuesday that the coronavirus outbreak underscores the need to enact legislation that would cut off taxpayer dollars for organizations such as EcoHealth that helped fund the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Inspector General announced Tuesday that they would investigate the National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant program, which funneled taxpayer funding to EcoHealth Alliance that went to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The investigation follows after Ernst called on the HHS IG to do this as far back as March 2020.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Breitbart News Daily host Alex Marlow that the WIV has yet to set safeguards since the pandemic, warning that another virus may leak from the laboratory.
Ernst said that this underscores the need to enact legislation that would cut off American taxpayer funding to Chinese laboratories through her STOP and COST bills. The Cost Openness and Spending Transparency (COST) Act would require every federally funded project to include a price tag, is easily available for taxpayers.
She told Breitbart News:
It just underscores the fact that we shouldn’t be trusting our American taxpayer dollars at a lab in communist China. So, I think that this should be the warning shot that was heard all around the world, that we should not be sending our research dollars to a government like China’s and then expect them to do the right thing. If we had had greater transparency initially, this could have potentially been discovered and stopped. But, you know we can’t, can’t go back and change it, but just as Justin said, because of potentially their lack of safeguards, we had a global pandemic that killed three million people.
Ernst explained during the Tuesday press conference that EcoHealth Alliance violated multiple federal laws that require the group to disclose how much taxpayer money goes to the Wuhan lab. For instance, with the Steven’s Amendment, all HHS recipients must acknowledge federal funding when issuing statements; they also must disclose the percentage and dollar amounts of the total program or projects associated with federal money.
When NIH requested information about the WIV and the viruses being studied and the safety conditions there, EcoHealth called the questioning “inappropriate” and “heinous” and even organized an effort to taint the scientific investigation, calling the theory of a lab leak a “conspiracy theory.”
The Senate unanimously approved Ernst’s amendment to the Endless Frontier Act to ban any future U.S. funding to the WIV.
EcoHealth refused NIH’s questions in July 2020, which led to the agency suspending its funding. However, the next month, NIH awarded EcoHealth a $7.5 million grant, and the Department of Defense has awarded $5 million to EcoHeatlh since July 2020.
To combat this EcoHealth Alliance’s flouting of federal law, Ernst unveiled the Stop the Outlay of Payments (STOP) Act to cut off all funding to any organization, including EcoHealth, that refuses to provide information about a project or fails to obey federal disclosure law.
Ernst told Breitbart News, “So, I think this is a really great step forward with COST and STOP Acts, and hopefully, we can put other measures in place in the future as well.”
Sean Moran is a congressional reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.