President Donald Trump has ordered his administration to suspend funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) while the agency’s response to the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic is investigated. The president made the announcement during the April 14 daily press briefing, accusing the group of “mismanaging and covering up the spread of COVID-19″ that “caused so much death.”
Picking a Fight with WHO
The president slammed the international agency’s response to the outbreak. He noted that “one of the most dangerous and costly decisions from the WHO was its disastrous decision to oppose travel restrictions from China and other nations.” Because “he was not convinced” by its explanations, Trump moved ahead and halted travel from China in the early days of the virus.
Officials will conduct a “thorough” investigation that should last 60 to 90 days.
When pressed by reporters about why he is deciding to halt funds now, Trump replied that the U.S. has had issues with the WHO “for years” and that this should have been done “a long time ago.”
“This is an evaluation period, but in the meantime, we’re putting a hold on all funds going to World Health. We’ll be able to take that money and channel it to the areas that most need it,” he said. “The WHO willingly took China’s assurances at face value, and they willingly took it at face value and defended the actions of the Chinese government even while praising China for its so-called transparency.”
It is estimated that the U.S. provides as much as $500 million annually to the entity. Since much of this funding is appropriated by Congress, it is unclear how he plans to withhold WHO funding. Experts say that President Trump could invoke the Impoundment Control Act of 1974, allowing him to withhold congressional funds, but this measure requires congressional approval within 45 days.
The WHO has yet to address President Trump’s action, but United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres argued that now is not the time to cut resources in the battle against COVID-19. Guterres believes that reviews can be conducted once the crisis is over, “but now is not the time.”
“It is also not the time to reduce the resources for the operations of the World Health Organization or any other humanitarian organization in the fight against the virus,” Guterres stated.
Other News in the Brady Room
The daily press briefing inside the James S. Brady Room was also newsworthy for other developments.
President Trump highlighted his meeting with health care executives to discuss the dynamic ventilator reserve, an initiative that seeks to transfer ventilators to COVID-19 patients. Details are limited, but senior White House officials told Reuters that the program is a public-private partnership, and large health care companies will extend unused ventilators to the government, which will then supply the technology in Coronavirus hot spots.
Trump also confirmed that U.S. airlines have reached a deal in principle with the federal government on $25 billion in direct aid as part of the overall $2.2 trillion CARES Act. Washington is aiming to prevent airlines from laying off staff and to continue paying employees’ salaries and benefits. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin revealed before the Easter long weekend that 30% of the financial assistance would need to be repaid and that airlines would be required to provide stock warrants on a portion of the money. Early reports indicate that the government has been firm on these terms, though airline industry officials thought the funds would be grants that would not need to be repaid.
The president maintained his spat with several state leaders, telling reporters that his administration will soon publish details on plans to reopen the nation and speak with all 50 governors. Some jurisdictions could begin before May 1 because about 20 states are doing well. While Trump claimed his authority over reopening the economy, Republican and Democratic governors iterated their constitutional responsibility. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo slammed the president at his daily press briefing, likening him to a “king” who is “clearly spoiling for a fight on this issue.”
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