At Select Subcommittee Hearing, Democrats Underscore World Health Organization’s Role in Advancing Global Health Security and Highlight Forward-Looking Reforms

Dec 14, 2023
Press Release
Select Subcommittee Democrats Reject Republicans’ Extreme Isolationist Policies

Washington, D.C. (December 14, 2023)—Yesterday, Rep. Raul Ruiz, M.D., Ranking Member of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, led Select Subcommittee Democrats in advancing solutions that enhance global health security, revamp the World Health Organization (WHO), and cement the United States’s leadership on the world stage. 

“The United States has served as the preeminent leader in global health for decades. And now is not the time to cede that role to another country angling for global influence. No—now is the time to reinforce the United States’s global health leadership with meaningful reforms to the WHO that promote transparency and strengthen international cooperation in the event of a future pandemic,” said Ranking Member Ruiz in his opening statement.

Yesterday’s hearing included testimony from The Honorable John N. Nkengasong, Ambassador-At-Large for the United States Global AIDS Coordinator and Senior Bureau Official for the Bureau of Global Health, Department of State; The Honorable Loyce Pace, Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services; and The Honorable Atul Gawande, Assistant Administrator for Global Health, United States Agency for International Development.

Select Subcommittee Democrats highlighted how the Biden Administration and Congressional Democrats have worked to advance global health, including by reforming the WHO, promoting transparency to counter the Chinese Communist Party, and strengthening multilateral cooperation in the event of a future pandemic.

  • Congresswoman Debbie Dingell said: “When it comes to preventing and preparing for future pandemics, whether we like it or not, safeguarding global health and our own national security interests are inextricably linked with other countries around the world…Under President Biden, the United States has reasserted its global health leadership by re-engaging with the WHO and proposing substantive reforms to promote transparency and strengthen the international community’s position against countries that obfuscate and evade accountability.”
  • Ranking Member Ruiz said: “Under President Biden’s leadership, the United States has taken a leading role on multiple fronts to reform the World Health Organization and ensure that our American taxpayers’ investments are used effectively and efficiently to advance global health. In January 2022, the Biden Administration introduced a set of amendments to the International Health Regulations—which are implemented by member states and define their rights and obligations in responding to emerging global health threats.”
  • Congresswoman Deborah Ross said: “I also want to remind the Committee that the Trump Administration was praising the Chinese Communist Party at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and wasn’t stepping up to the plate to work with our international partners. The Biden Administration came in, recognized many of these problems…and we have become a better global partner.”

Select Subcommittee Democrats underscored how the Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans’ extreme policies and funding cuts would endanger global health and undermine America on the world stage.

  • Congresswoman Jill Tokuda said: “Make no mistake, a return to the Trump Administration’s isolationist approach to global health will undoubtedly put American lives at risk…Republicans’ repeated attempts to gut global health programs, including domestic programs at the CDC that track emerging diseases and fight bioterrorism, will not keep Americans safe.” 
  • Congressman Kweisi Mfume spotlighted Republicans’ extreme policies that would undermine global health security: “This year, several members of the other side of the aisle are offering amendments that would eviscerate, gut, and do away with the World Health Organization. I have before me H.R. 1546 to prohibit the use of any and all funds to implement any obligations of the United States under the World Health Organization Pandemic Treaty, H.R. 79, a bill directing the President to withdraw the United States from the constitution of the World Health Organization, and an amendment to the Labor-HHS appropriations that says ‘none of the funds made available by this appropriation shall be made available to the World Health Organization.’”

Select Subcommittee Democrats demonstrated the value the United States’s leadership in the WHO brings to America’s public health, national security, and diplomatic efforts.

  • Congresswoman Ross highlighted the return on the United States’s investments in the WHO: “In fact, for every dollar we invest in the WHO, the WHO generates a minimum return of $35 in public health benefits.”
  • In response to questions from Congresswoman Ross about how the WHO has protected Americans’ health, Assistant Administrator Gawande said: “There are multiple roles that WHO plays that leads to them improving health and lifespan on billions of people around the world, including Americans. And there are three central roles, one is that they lead collective action to reduce common killers. We’ve talked about the eradication of smallpox and polio, but there are many other examples.”
  • In response to questions from Congressman Robert Garcia about the importance of the WHO in advancing public health in the United States, Assistant Secretary Pace said: “I would agree it’s critical. We need an effective WHO to do so, but they’ve done much over the past 75 years to demonstrate their value to Americans and the world.”

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Issues: 
118th Congress