As member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) prepare to gather in Switzerland next week to negotiate final terms of an accord that will give the WHO centralized authority over U.S. policy in the case of a pandemic, Republican senators are pushing back with an effort to reinforce congressional power to authorize treaties.
The draft accord, which would be “legally binding” on all 194 member nations, gives the WHO the authority to declare pandemics and submits member countries to “the central role of the WHO as the directing and coordinating authority on international health work,” in areas like lockdowns, treatments, medical supply chains, surveillance, and “disinformation and false news,” once a pandemic is declared.
Seventeen U.S. senators, led by Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), introduced the “No WHO Pandemic Preparedness Treaty Without Senate Approval Act” on Feb 15, which states that the pandemic accord must be deemed a treaty, thus requiring the consent of a supermajority of the Senate, which is two-thirds, or 67 senators. The legislation comes as the WHO gears up to present what it calls the “zero draft” of the accord, negotiated with the help of U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, to all member nations on Feb. 27 to agree final terms.
Other sponsors of the bill included Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), and Katie Britt (R-Ala.).
“The WHO, along with our federal health agencies, failed miserably in their response to COVID-19,” Sen. Johnson stated. “This failure should not be rewarded with a new international treaty that would increase the WHO’s power at the expense of American sovereignty.”
But some doubt this bill, even if approved, will stop the WHO accord from going into effect once President Joe Biden signs it.