The top Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence said Tuesday he will support a Republican bill that would require the Biden administration to declassify information about possible links between the COVID pandemic and the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“I plan to support this legislation, both in committee, where we will mark up a companion bill this evening, and the full House later this week,” Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., said in the House Rules Committee Tuesday.
Himes said it’s hard enough to trace the origin of a virus in normal circumstances, and even more difficult given the way China has failed to cooperate.
“At every juncture, the PRC government has obfuscated and obstructed legitimate inquiries, a deeply irresponsible approach to global public health,” Himes said.
“The COVID 19 Origins Act is not the bill I would have necessarily drafted on the topic, but I support it because I share the belief that the intelligence community should continue to get to the bottom of COVID’s origin,” Himes added. “And importantly, I believe that they should make as much public as they can so the American people can consider the best available information we have, as opposed to marinating and conjecture and speculation and conspiracy theories.”
The bill was already widely expected to pass the House when it comes up this week, but Himes’ comments indicate it could pass with scores of Democrat votes. The same bill, introduced by Sens. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Mike Braun, R-Ind., passed the Senate by unanimous consent last week.
Last week, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., indicated that leadership wants the Democratic caucus to vote against the bill, but Himes’ comments show many Democrats are likely to ignore that preference and vote for the bill.
The bill requires the Director of National Intelligence to declassify “any and all information” relating to potential links between COVID and the Wuhan Institute of Virology. That includes details on workers at the Wuhan lab who got sick, what their symptoms were, and whether they were involved in coronavirus research at the Wuhan lab.
Himes noted that in 2021, most intelligence agencies couldn’t make a firm determination about the origin of COVID. In the last few weeks, the Department of Energy and the FBI have said they believe a lab leak in China is the most likely origin but could only assign a low confidence to that theory.
Republicans have argued that the idea that COVID came from a lab in China is at minimum a viable theory, despite media attempts to push the idea that this theory was racist and debunked.
“At the height of the pandemic, anyone who spoke out suggesting that COVID-19 might have come from a lab leak in China, they were denounced as a conspiracy theorist, a spreader of misinformation, they were canceled, they were shadow banned on social media platforms, their accounts were suspended, people’s reputations were damaged and destroyed,” said Rep. Nicholas Langworthy, R-N.Y., at the Rules Committee Tuesday.
Today, “we have the Department of Energy and the FBI both publicly reporting that their conclusions are that COVID-19 emerged as a result of a lab leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a research institute in Wuhan, China, controlled by the People’s Republic of China, and ultimately, the CCP.”