Republicans want review of aid to WHO, Democrat may subpoena Pompeo


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Five U.S. Senate Republicans introduced a bill on Wednesday seeking a review of U.S. participation in the World Health Organization and other international institutions, after President Donald Trump’s administration suspended U.S. contributions to the U.N. health agency and accused it of mishandling the coronavirus pandemic.

Introduced by Chairman Jim Risch and four other Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the “Multilateral Aid Review Act of 2020” would establish a task force to assess how well multilateral institutions carry out their missions and serve American interests.

The bill requires a report on 38 institutions. Besides the WHO, they include the World Bank; Asian, African, Inter-American and North American Development Banks, and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, as well as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, several U.N. organizations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Trump suspended U.S. contributions to the WHO on April 14, accusing it of promoting China’s “disinformation” about the coronavirus outbreak and saying his administration would launch a review of the organization.

WHO officials have denied the claims and China insists it has been transparent and open. The United States is the WHO’s biggest donor.

“As we have seen most recently with questionable actions taken by the World Health Organization in response to the spread of COVID-19, it is critically important to have accountability and oversight of our assistance,” Risch said in a statement announcing the bill.

Trump administration officials have aggressively criticized China as the pandemic has killed more than 70,000 Americans and ravaged the U.S. economy. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday renewed his aggressive criticism, blaming China for hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide.

Democrats have accused the Republican administration of seeking to distract from its own failings in addressing the health crisis. They said the WHO needs reforms, but said it should not be attacked in the middle of a pandemic.

Separately, a House of Representatives source said Representative Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, might subpoena Pompeo for missing a May 4 deadline to provide information for an investigation of the decision to suspend aid to the WHO.

Critics of the aid review bill said they were concerned the task force would be too partisan because Pompeo would be its chairman and members would be appointed by Trump.

The other sponsors of the bill were Senators David Perdue, Marco Rubio, Mitt Romney and Todd Young.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis