The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is holding a hearing Thursday on the U.S. pandemic preparedness, prevention, and response.
Watch the hearing in the player above.
“Senate bill 38-29 to go forward. The purpose of it is to, as I said, construct a shield that is better than the shield that we have,” said Committee Chairman Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho.
“I’ve repeatedly said that what we need is a fire station and a fire department ready and able to put out a fire before it burns the entire world.”
The virus has infected more than 8.3 million people since it emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and killed nearly 450,000, according to a Johns Hopkins tally of official data. Both numbers are believed to deeply undercount the true toll due to limited testing and other factors.
The United States has the most infections and deaths by far, with 2.1 million infected and more than 117,000 dead.
“I’m all for ensuring the U.S. government is better organized to prevent, detect and respond to future pandemics both here and abroad,” said Ranking Member, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey.
“But some of the proposals coming out of the administration, eerily similar to those coming from some members of Congress, are ill thought, destructive and dangerous. And so far that they would cripple USAID and create a mechanism at the World Bank at which the administration could channel all of the funding it’s withholding from the WHO.”
Americans have wrestled with deep emotional divides between those who support lockdowns and restrictions like wearing masks to stop the spread of the virus and those who believe such measures infringe on personal freedoms.
Other countries are also confronting politicized debates amid growing infections.
“Taking health out of a broader development approach and isolating it will not lead to success,” said USAID Counselor Chris Mulligan.
“We must empower our health and development experts to do what they do best in the field to respond to dangerous infectious diseases. It is imperative that we act proactively and address the ways in many ways This crisis has not only cost lives, but threaten development outcomes.”
Senate Democrats proposed legislation to provide an additional $9 billion in funding to help support international efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic at the beginning of May.