WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Appropriations and Foreign Relations Committees, and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, introduced the No WHO Withdrawal Act to block President Trump’s attempt to withdraw the United States from the World Health Organization (WHO) and prohibit congressionally appropriated funds from being used to execute a withdrawal.
The United States has been a member of the WHO since its founding in New York in 1946. The WHO has since played an essential role to help countries manage and respond to public health threats – including COVID-19 – by improving preparedness, accelerating research for treatment and therapeutics, distributing supplies, and facilitating international coordination.
After over 70 years of membership, the Trump administration notified the WHO on July 6 that the United States would cut ties with the organization in the midst of the deadliest pandemic in decades.
According to a Joint Resolution of Congress, the United States can withdraw from the WHO under two conditions: the United States must provide notice one year before withdrawing and must fulfill its financial obligations. Congress holds the constitutional power to prevent appropriated funds from being used to support the President’s unilateral decision. The No WHO Withdrawal Act would block funding for a U.S. withdrawal and assert that it is U.S. policy to continue to work within the WHO to reform and improve the organization.
“Congress can and should assert its constitutional authority to block the President’s reckless decision and ensure that the United States remains a member of the World Health Organization,” said Senator Coons. “Shifting blame and cutting ties with the WHO will not save lives, restart our economy, or stop the spread of COVID-19 around the world. In fact, it will do the opposite. The Congress should work to prevent the Trump administration’s continued deterioration of U.S. global leadership and block this dangerous move.”
“The decision to withhold funds, and to then formally withdraw, from the World Health Organization in the midst of the greatest public health catastrophe in a century — that has killed more Americans than in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan combined and shows no sign of being brought under control — was one of the most colossal blunders of this error-prone White House. The President blames WHO for not being tough enough with China, at the very time he was praising Xi Jinping for his handling of the coronavirus. WHO made mistakes, but it is playing an essential role in fighting COVID-19 around the world as well as malaria, TB, polio, and many other public health threats. The real blame goes to our self-proclaimed wartime President who dismissed the pandemic as nothing to worry about, turned wearing masks into a divisive political issue while over 140,000 Americans died, and has yet to come up with a national strategy to control the virus. The United States should be a strong supporter of WHO, both so it can do its job today, and to strengthen its ability to respond to the next pandemic. This is legislation to ensure that,” said Senator Leahy.
The bill text is available here.