Still No Word on Whether Biden Will Sign COVID Intelligence Bill

March 17, 2023 by Dan McCue
Still No Word on Whether Biden Will Sign COVID Intelligence Bill
FILE - Government workers stand outside a blue tent used to coordinate transportation of travelers from Wuhan to designated quarantine sites in Beijing, April 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Sam McNeil, File)

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Friday ignored shouted questions from reporters about whether he’ll sign legislation that unanimously passed Congress last week calling for declassification of information on the origins of COVID-19.

On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden was still making up his mind about whether to sign it, adding, “we’re taking a look into the bill.”

The president himself had previously told reporters, as he left the White House for his Delaware home last week, that he hadn’t “made that decision yet,” but his continued reticence on the matter appeared particularly irksome to those who covered him on Friday.

The House unanimously approved the COVID origins bill last Friday, after the Senate passed the legislation without opposition a week earlier.

Members of both parties have expressed interest in learning whether the virus leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China, that was conducting U.S.-funded research.

But in a twist, an international team of virus experts on Thursday said they believe they’ve found new evidence that links the sale of a specific kind of animal — a raccoon dog, similar to a fox — at a specific market in the city, the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market.

An extensive piece about that research was published this month in The Atlantic.

The same market had come under scrutiny in January 2020, after authorities suggested the outbreak could have been caused by an infected animal that was being dealt through the illegal wildlife trade.

“The American public deserves answers to every aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, after the House vote last week.

He went on to say they deserve to know whether the virus “was a natural occurrence or a man-made event.”

The House bill particularly targets currently classified documents regarding China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology.

If signed into law, the measure would require the director of national intelligence to declassify “any and all” documents related to potential links between the lab and the outbreak, and for those documents to be delivered to Congress within 90 days.

But opinion remains strongly divided over where the virus actually came from, and some experts have said the true origin of the pandemic may never be known.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and @DanMcCue

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