Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho)
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) track record over the last three years is nothing short of abysmal. When the Chinese government lied to the world in the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the WHO parroted and praised China’s officials. When it became clear China was covering up truths about the deadliest health emergency in a century, the WHO did nothing to hold it responsible. The WHO has failed in its core mission to protect global health time and again. Idahoans know this, the American people know this, and we all should be skeptical of any action the WHO takes to attempt to grow its power and influence.
Any international body that wants to dictate our laws, especially one whose missteps have been as blatant and deadly as the WHO’s, rightfully deserves criticism and pushback. And yet, the Biden administration appears poised to sign a pandemics accord that would cede American sovereignty to the WHO without the Senate’s advice and consent. This would allow the WHO to create laws for Idahoans without giving anyone from Idaho the opportunity to deliberate or even vote on these changes. I will not let that happen.
It is the Senate’s Constitutional duty to review and approve treaties, but the president is proceeding as though a legally-binding pandemic treaty will not require Senate approval. That is a huge mistake. In its current form, this agreement would have major implications for the U.S. and could massively increase our responsibility abroad.
For example, some countries are aggressively pursuing language that would waive intellectual property (IP) protections for public health products. IP protections are foundational to the United States, and they are the reason for millions of life-saving medical breakthroughs. American innovation is the reason we have not one but three effective COVID-19 vaccines. The push to waive IP protections would slow – and could even prevent – game-changing cures from being developed in the first place.
Another serious issue in the current WHO draft relates to so-called “common but differentiated responsibilities” for each country based on GDP. As COVID-19 made abundantly clear, pathogens do not respect boundaries. Regardless of wealth, every country has a responsibility to contain and respond to a virus. Yet the WHO is considering a provision that would allow countries below a certain income threshold to ignore that responsibility. While unethical and wrong, we should hardly be surprised – after all, the WHO failed to hold China accountable for hiding the truth about COVID-19 from the world.
Like usual, the WHO also wants the United States to bear the financial burden of implementing this agreement. This draft would require the United States and wealthier nations to shoulder the cost of this treaty and the poison apples it bears.
These are just some examples of how the WHO’s current draft will hurt the United States and enable a deeply-flawed global organization to impede our own sovereignty. No U.S. Senator should support the president in his effort to cede power to a global entity, let alone an entity that failed catastrophically to protect global health and instead empowered the Chinese Communist Party to cover up the original spread of COVID-19 that led to a global pandemic. Now is the time to ensure the Senate, not just the president and his chosen delegate, has a voice.
To prevent the president from agreeing to anything without Senate approval, I am proposing a Senate rule change that would deny taxpayer dollars to implement any such agreement without the Senate’s consent. This resolution would prevent President Biden, or any future president, from ignoring the Constitution and surrendering American sovereignty to an unreliable, unaccountable WHO.
Idahoans deserve a seat at the table for decisions of this magnitude. We must ensure that Idaho, and every state for that matter, has a say. That alone will ensure American sovereignty is not carelessly traded away by this administration. The Senate should adopt my resolution to protect the voices of all Americans in this treaty and every treaty to come.
Word Count: 662