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The acting head of the White House budget office declined to tell lawmakers Wednesday whether President Biden’s proposed budget would include funding for research carried out by the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China.
Under questioning from House Budget Committee ranking member Jason Smith (R-Mo.), Office of Management and Budget (OMB) acting director Shalanda Young repeatedly deferred to an ongoing 90-day review of the origins of the coronavirus pandemic being carried out by the intelligence community.
“Over the past few weeks, it has become increasingly evident that COVID-19 originated from a lab in Wuhan, China,” Smith said at one point before asking Young, “What are you doing to get to the bottom of the clear link between federal funding and the Wuhan lab?”
After Young deferred once again to the review, Smith said: “So let me ask you this, can you commit that American dollars will never be used to fund such research going forward from this budget?”
“Congressman, I started my career at NIH [the National Institutes of Health],” Young answered. “I would never, you know, make that commitment, as someone who believes we need to be led by science, and we certainly need to wait [for] this review before we jump to conclusions.”
There is a growing belief that the virus leaked accidentally from the Wuhan Institute of Virology into the 11 million-strong population of Wuhan, touching off the worst pandemic in a century. Republicans in Congress have focused their scrutiny on the lab’s research into bat coronaviruses, some of which was funded by an NIH grant funneled through New York City-based nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance.
White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci told a House Appropriations subcommittee last month that the NIH funding commitment to the Wuhan lab was “about $600,000 over a period of five years.”
However, internal NIH emails obtained last week by the conservative group Judicial Watch indicate that the lab actually received approximately $750,000 in grant money over an initial five-year period, with another $750,000 allocated for a subsequent six-year period.
In total, EcoHealth was to receive about $7.4 million over more than a decade from NIH to carry out a study titled, “Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence”. The NIH emails indicate the Wuhan Institute of Virology was one of many sites across Asia where research was carried out.
In April of last year, NIH pulled the plug on the remaining grant money allocated to EcoHealth. It was not immediately clear whether any of that funding would be restored.
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