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House Republicans demand briefing on White House ‘gain-of-function’ policies

Two House Republicans on Thursday demanded a briefing on US policies regarding controversial research suspected of having been conducted at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology with taxpayer money, The Post has learned.

In a letter to the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the GOP representatives noted that nearly $600,000 in federal grant money was sent to the WIV by the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told House lawmakers last month that the money was funneled to the Chinese lab through EcoHealth to fund “a modest collaboration with very respectable Chinese scientists who were world experts on coronavirus.”

Although that funding wasn’t approved for “gain-of-function” research — which can make viruses more infectious and virulent — National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins last week told lawmakers that officials don’t know what the lab did “outside of what our approved grant allowed.”

“This statement amongst a litany of mounting evidence raises legitimate concerns regarding the safety and security of federally funded research to the WIV,” says Thursday’s letter from Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.), the top Republican on the House Science Subcommittee on Research and Technology, and Member Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), the ranking member of the House Science Committee. 

The Wuhan Institute of Virology
Members of Congress want to know if taxpayer money went to “gain-of-function” research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Ng Han Guan/AP

The letter also says that the Office of Science and Technology Policy “has historically played a central role in providing policy guidance and directives to agencies pertaining to GOF activities” and demands a briefing by June 30 on its role in the investigation into the origins of the coronavirus that President Biden ordered last month.

Other questions raised by the congressmen include whether the OTSP is going “to review policies and procedures that lead to resumption of GOF research” in December 2017 following a government “pause” that was ordered in October 2014.

Waltz said it’s critical that they “get to the bottom” of what happened to prevent similar instances from happening in the future. 

“My committee has, has oversight of the Office of Science and Technology policy, right, which is the that’s the key science advisory office at the White House that directly advises the president, and the letter is getting at what is the role of OSTP, in this 90 day review of what intelligence we have on COVID origin,” he told The Post.

“But we also want to know more broadly, what is OSTP’s position, what are they doing to review the policies and procedures that once led to the resumption of gain of function research more broadly? Not just WIV … although that’s one of the primary institutions that’s conducting this research. And then, what is their position on reviewing grants and sub grants going forward? So how do we prevent this from happening again?” 

Reps. James Comer and Steve Scalise want Dr. Fauci to appear before lawmakers.
Reps. James Comer and Steve Scalise want Dr. Fauci to appear before lawmakers.
AP

And other House Republicans have written letters to the Democratic chairmen of two committees to compel Fauci to testify and reveal the unredacted versions of his emails that were released this week — which renewed the controversy surrounding the theory that the coronavirus leaked from a Chinese lab.

Reps. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and James Comer (R-Ky.) wrote to the chairs of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus and the House Oversight Committee to say it is “imperative” that Fauci appear before the lawmakers, Fox News reported. 

The White House didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

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