Republican Senate Urges Biden to Reject WHO Pandemic Treaties

 May 2, 2024

An intense appeal has emerged from the Republican Senate, spearheaded by Senator Ron Johnson, who aims to influence President Biden's global health policy decisions.

Fox News reported that the Senate Republicans have urged President Biden to disapprove any agreements at the upcoming World Health Assembly that would enhance the World Health Organization's (WHO) power in managing pandemics.

The contention revolves around proposed amendments that the Senate believes should be scrutinized as treaties, necessitating a two-thirds majority approval and the perceived inefficiencies within the WHO. This call comes in anticipation of the World Health Assembly scheduled for the end of May.

The assembly is a pivotal event, given its role as the decision-making body of the WHO. It's slated from May 27 to June 1, and this year's focus includes potentially consequential changes in how pandemics are managed globally.

Senate's Strong Stance On Global Health Sovereignty

The Republican senators, including influential figures like Mitch McConnell, John Thune, and John Barrasso, have voiced significant skepticism about the WHO’s capabilities and intentions. They have highlighted past failures and current amendment proposals that they argue could compromise essential national interests. The crux of their argument is the need for rigorous Senate involvement in treaty approvals, as mandated by the U.S. Constitution.

A draft of the controversial pandemic treaty revised in March suggests enhanced global cooperation on pandemics through shared resources, technologies, and information. It aims to bolster equity but has faced criticism for potentially undermining intellectual property rights.

While supportive of global health cooperation, the Biden administration has echoed some of these concerns, particularly regarding pharmaceutical patents. According to Politico, these concerns were voiced back in January, depicting a cautious approach by the administration.

Debates Over WHO's Role And Pandemic Treaty

Senator Johnson's initiative underscores a broader fear among Republicans that signing onto the WHO treaty may endow the international body with excessive authority, bypassing national sovereignty.

Here is an excerpt from the letter sent to President Biden:

We strongly urge you not to join any pandemic-related treaty, convention, or agreement being considered... Instead of addressing the WHO's well-documented shortcomings, the treaty focuses on mandated resource and technology transfers, shredding intellectual property rights, infringing [on] free speech, and supercharging the WHO.

This resistance aligns with concerns about the undetermined origins of COVID-19, emphasizing allegations of obstruction from Beijing in transparent investigative processes.

The Department of Health and Human Services has outlined the U.S. stance, asserting the need for policies that protect national and global health while fostering innovation. They stress that international agreements must align with U.S. legal frameworks and promote effective governmental participation.

As the World Health Assembly continues, its decisions could establish important precedents for managing global health. The White House and the World Health Organization have not yet responded to a letter from senators, leaving the international community anticipating their stance.

Stakeholders carefully weigh their positions, acknowledging the transformative possibilities and the contentious issues surrounding future global pandemic management. The ongoing debates about reforms within the WHO and treaty stipulations are set to significantly influence the development of international health policies and actions.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

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