Biden Signs COVID Origin Act
WASHINGTON — A week after the House overwhelmingly voted to declassify any and all information related to the origin of COVID-19, President Joe Biden signed the measure into law, saying, “I share the Congress’ goal of releasing as much information as possible” about the virus.
The bill, which would declassify information about the virus’ origins and any information linking it to a lab in Wuhan, China, passed the House unanimously, 419-0, with 16 members not voting.
And the Senate passed the measure by unanimous consent a week earlier.
But the president was slow to embrace the bill, telling reporters, when asked if he’d sign it, “I haven’t made that decision yet.”
Passage of the bill, titled the COVID-19 Origin Act of 2023, came after the U.S. Energy Department, which had conducted an investigation into the matter, concluded with “low confidence” that the pandemic likely originated from a laboratory leak at a facility in Wuhan.
Since then, 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.
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.
An extensive piece about that research was published this month in The Atlantic.
On Monday, Biden said he was pleased to sign the COVID-19 Origin Act into law.
“In 2021, I directed the intelligence community to use every tool at its disposal to investigate the origin of COVID-19, and that work is ongoing,” he said in a statement issued by the White House.
“We need to get to the bottom of COVID-19’s origins to help ensure we can better prevent future pandemics,” he continued. “My administration will continue to review all classified information relating to COVID-19’s origins, including potential links to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“In implementing this legislation, my administration will declassify and share as much of that information as possible, consistent with my constitutional authority to protect against the disclosure of information that would harm national security,” Biden said.
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