WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) in introducing a bill to ensure the United States fulfills its commitments to the World Health Organization (WHO). Under the Abiding by U.S. Commitments Act, the United States would continue dues payments to the WHO and other international organizations of which it is a member.
Earlier this year, the White House announced it would begin the process of terminating the United States’ relationship with the World Health Organization, isolating the United States in the midst of a global pandemic and endangering access to up to date information about COVID-19 and other diseases. Last week the Trump administration also announced it would not join 172 countries in an effort to secure a safe vaccine because the World Health Organization was involved, undermining global efforts to secure a vaccine and the U.S.’s historic leadership in global health diplomacy.
According to recent reports, COVID-19 has killed U.S. citizens at six times the average rate in high-income countries and has infected eight times the number of people in the United States compared to other high-income countries.
Specifically, the legislation would:
- Express a sense of Congress that the U.S. should participate in global efforts to develop, manufacture, and equitably distribute a vaccine for COVID-19, including in the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility, which aims to speed vaccine development, mitigate risk, secure doses for all countries, and distribute them to the most high-risk segment of each population.
- Require the Secretary of State to pay 2020 assessed dues to the international organizations to which the U.S. belongs.
- Require that $118.9 million in U.S. annual assessed/treaty obligated dues be made available to the WHO.
Senator Cantwell slammed the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization in early July, saying: “Pandemics don’t stop at borders, and neither should the global response. It is irresponsible and wrong for the United States to leave the World Health Organization, especially at a time when we continue to see an increasing number of COVID-19 cases throughout the country.” On July 21, Cantwell joined her colleagues in a letter urging the President to reverse this decision. This came after Cantwell cosponsored a resolution in June reaffirming the United States’ role in the global effort to find and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine.
In addition to Cantwell, Booker, and Durbin, the Abiding by U.S. Commitments Act is also cosponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
The full text of the bill is available HERE.