Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst introduced a bill this week to force more accountability for the National Institutes of Health and its National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — both on gain-of-function research in Chinese labs and honesty from its employees.
The lawmaker's legislation, called the Fairness and Accountability in Underwriting Chinese Institutions Act, or the FAUCI Act, would put a complete ban on U.S. funding for any gain-of-function research, as a statement from Ernst's office said. The bill would also require what Ernst's office called "a full accounting of U.S. involvement in 'gain-of-function' research, particularly in China."
And, perhaps most notably to presidential adviser and NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci and retiring NIH Director Francis Collins, the bill would make sure that any NIH employee or grantee who "intentionally misleads Congress, or the Inspector General, will be ineligible for current or future federal grants and employment."
Fauci and Collins both recently came under fire following newly surfaced evidence that EcoHealth Alliance, a U.S.-based nonprofit that does research on infectious diseases, and its partners at China's Wuhan Institute of Virology partnered on risky virus experiments that violated the terms of their NIH grant, which included prohibitions on gain-of-function research.
Both Fauci and Collins have repeatedly denied that the NIH ever funded gain-of-function research experiments to make deadly pathogens more transmissible among humans — including Fauci's controversial testimony to Congress over the summer, during which he went toe-to-toe with Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul and vociferously denied any gain-of-function research being done with NIH dollars at the WIV. Fauci has continued to deny any wrongdoing even after the damning evidence about EcoHealth and the WIV surfaced. And Collins continued to mislead the public when confronted by CNN about the evidence.
Ernst's office said her bill came in response to Fauci's alleged lies to Congress:
With revelations continuing to surface about the U.S. government's involvement in and support for dangerous scientific experiments overseas under Dr. Anthony Fauci—including “gain of function" research in China—U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) is calling for a full accounting of how and where U.S. tax dollars are being spent, a complete ban on funding of “gain-of-function" research in Communist China, and restrictions on government officials who intentionally mislead Congress.
Ernst is introducing the FAUCI Act – or the Fairness and Accountability in Underwriting Chinese Institutions Act – which, in addition to banning U.S. funding for “gain-of-function" research in China, ensures that any National Institutes of Health (NIH) employee, official, or grantee that intentionally misleads Congress, or the Inspector General, will be ineligible for current or future federal grants and employment. The bill also calls for a full accounting of U.S. involvement in “gain-of-function" research, particularly in China.
"For years, American tax dollars were funneled into Communist China, funding dangerous experiments on coronaviruses at the Wuhan Lab, while the head of the division funding those activities, Dr. Fauci, failed to tell the truth to Congress," Ernst said. "We need a full accounting of how and where our tax dollars are being spent—enough is enough. The FAUCI Act will put an end to U.S. funding of gain-of-function research in Communist China, go after government officials who intentionally mislead Congress, and bring about badly needed transparency and accountability."
Government watchdog outfit White Coat Waste Project applauded Ernst's efforts to hold Fauci and his cohort accountable for their actions.
"Shipping U.S. tax dollars to a notorious Chinese Communist Party-run bioagent lab in Wuhan for treacherous gain-of-function animal experiments was a recipe for disaster," White Coat Waste Project vice president Justin Goodman said. "We applaud Senator Ernst for introducing the FAUCI Act to protect taxpayers and public health from dangerous and wasteful spending in China and to hold NIH officials and grantees accountable for not being forthright with Congress."