Cheers and applause rang out in the Senate chamber on Tuesday evening after passage of an amendment offered by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), which bans the use of U.S. taxpayer dollars to fund gain-of-function research in China.
What are the details?
"We may never know whether the pandemic arose from the lab in Wuhan, but we do know that so far no intermediate animal host has been discovered," Paul said in his speech ahead of the vote.
"Thousands of animals at the wet market have been looked at," he continued. "None of them have carried COVID-19. We've tried to infect COVID-19 into bats; it doesn't grow well in bats. It seems suitable for humans."
He reiterated, "We may not know whether this ever arose out of a Wuhan lab, but I think gain-of-function research where we take a deadly virus — sometimes much more deadly than COVID — and then we increase its transmissibility to mammals is wrong."
"In 2014, [National Institutes of Health] stopped all of this research," the senator went on to say, adding, "I'm using the same definition to say any gain-of-function research should not be funded in China with U.S. taxpayer dollars."
The measure then passed by a voice vote, prompting cheers and clapping from within the chamber.
What's the background?
In his most recent sparring match with Dr. Anthony Fauci a few weeks ago, Paul, a physician, pressed Fauci over NIH funding viral research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the possibility that COVID-19 was a product of "gain-of-function" research leaked from the lab.
"Dr. Fauci, do you still support funding of the NIH funding of the lab in Wuhan?" Paul asked.
"Sen. Paul, with all due respect, you are entirely, entirely and completely incorrect," Fauci replied. "The NIH has not ever, and does not now, fund 'gain of function research' in the Wuhan Institute."
Paul disputed Fauci's claims in a press release explaining his amendment, writing:
Despite Dr. Fauci's denial, there is ample evidence and backing by the scientific community that the NIH and the NIAID, under his direction, funded gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. A multitude of scientists have reviewed this research and said it meets the definition for gain-of-function. Many of these scientists have also discussed the inherent dangers of conducting gain-of-function research and the risks it poses to the human population.