Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa wants to make sure that never again will the American people hear a tangled tale of American dollars funding research in China while officials dance around the truth.
Ernst is introducing the FAUCI Act — or the Fairness and Accountability in Underwriting Chinese Institutions Act — according to a statement on her website.
The act would ban the federal government from misusing taxpayers’ dollars to fund what’s known as gain-of-function research in China. This research takes place when a laboratory experiment transforms a naturally occurring virus into a more powerful disease.
Research conducted by American taxpayers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology that was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has taken on new importance amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The NIH has funded what some experts say amounted to gain-of-function research in China, which undercuts assertions from Dr. Anthony Fauci and others that the federally funded agency did no such thing, according to one expert.
Fauci heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of the NIH.
“For years, American tax dollars were funneled into Communist China, funding dangerous experiments on coronaviruses at the Wuhan Lab, while the head of the division funding those activities, Dr. Fauci, failed to tell the truth to Congress,” Ernst said.
“We need a full accounting of how and where our tax dollars are being spent—enough is enough. The FAUCI Act will put an end to U.S. funding of gain-of-function research in Communist China, go after government officials who intentionally mislead Congress, and bring about badly needed transparency and accountability.”
The act would require “a full accounting” of how NIH funding is spent and ban gain-of-function research.
In light of multiple allegations that Fauci has misled Congress, Ernst’s bill would punish any employee, official, or grantee of NIH who intentionally misleads Congress, or the Inspector General, by banning them from any federal funding or federal jobs.
The proposal drew praise from Justin Goodman, vice president of the government watchdog White Coat Waste Project.
“Shipping U.S. tax dollars to a notorious Chinese Communist Party-run bioagent lab in Wuhan for treacherous gain-of-function animal experiments was a recipe for disaster. We applaud Senator Ernst for introducing the FAUCI Act to protect taxpayers and public health from dangerous and wasteful spending in China and to hold NIH officials and grantees accountable for not being forthright with Congress,” Goodman said in Ernst’s statement.
Ernst has tried to rein in spending that supports dangerous research before. In June she proposed a law that would cut funding to groups such as EcoHealth Alliance, a grantee of NIH that conducted what appears to be gain-of-function research in China and dragged its feet admitting what it had done and how it spent federal grants.
“Despite skirting federal law and refusing to disclose how much U.S. taxpayer money was funneled to Communist China’s Wuhan Institute and the details about the coronavirus research the funding supported, EcoHealth Alliance was rewarded with another $7.5 million,” Ernst said then.
“Iowa taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to foot the bill for any organization that fails to comply with federal law. My bill would prevent federal funding from going to organizations, like EcoHealth, until they provide answers on how and where taxpayer dollars are being spent.”
One expert has denounced claims that no gain-of-function research was ever funded.
“Collins and Fauci lied to Congress, lied to the press, and lied to the public,” said Richard Ebright, a professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University, according to the Washington Examiner, referring to NIH Director Francis Collins. “Knowingly, willfully and brazenly.”
NIH Principal Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak last week admitted that the agency funded gain-of-function experiments on bat coronaviruses in China after over a year of denials from the agency’s leadership.
Tabak said its grantee, EcoHealth Alliance, first notified the NIH in August that it conducted the gain-of-function experiments with the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China between June 2018 and May 2019.
Tabak said EcoHealth failed to immediately notify the agency that it created coronaviruses that were 10 times more powerful.
Ernst also has called for an end to any U.S. funding of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the lab some fear might have been the origin of the coronavirus.
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