The Biden administration’s attempt to usurp Congress’s public health authority by rewriting international law may have just encountered an untimely grave. The Biden administration submitted a number of amendments for consideration at the World Health Assembly which would bolster the World Health Organization (WHO) Director General’s pandemic authority without the consent of member states.
The World Health Assembly is the WHO’s decision-making body and is meeting in Geneva this week, but “the most interesting thing that happened did not happen at the assembly itself,” said Michael Alexander, co-chair of the Law and Activism Committee of the World Council for Health.
“A first-year law student in the U.K.” objected to the amendments, Alexander explained on “Washington Watch.” He “asked the courts to review these amendments, and the court rejected him summarily. So he appealed. And then he got a letter from the government that said 12 of 13 international health regulation amendments have been taken off the table and will not be addressed at this Assembly, at least at this time.”
It’s unclear how or why the amendments were tabled. It seems they were considered by a working group comprised of member states, but the group is “not transparent,” Alexander said. “We don’t know who’s on it and who’s saying what,” or even how many nations are members — although there are rumors that Brazil and Russia opposed the amendments.
It’s also unclear whether their tabling was permanent. We also “don’t know how the approval process works … The 12 amendments are off the table right now,” Alexander continued, but “maybe … they’ll come back on in a day or two, and they’ll be approved in some way that is not transparent to us. So we have good news for the moment, [but] we have to keep an eye on what’s happening there.”
What is clear is that the Biden administration is unable to advance its public health agenda without these amendments. “The United States clearly didn’t play a role” in tabling the amendments, Alexander said.
But what is the Biden administration’s agenda at the World Health Assembly? They would add duties to states like, “The State Party shall accept or reject such an offer of assistance within 48 hours and, in the case of rejection of such an offer, shall provide to WHO its rationale for the rejection, which WHO shall share with other States Parties.”
They propose changing “State Party within whose territory the public health emergency of international concern has occurred” to “relevant State Parties,” which is undefined. They propose to delete language such as “taking into account the views of the State Party concerned” and “WHO shall consult with and attempt to obtain verification from the State Party in whose territory” the public health emergency occurred.
The changes largely tend either to decrease the sovereignty of a state, increase the rights of other states to meddle in its affairs, and increase the power of WHO officials. In a letter to President Biden, Senators Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) complained the amendments would “grant unilateral authority to declare public health emergencies of international or regional concern to the WHO’s Director General and Regional Directors, respectively. This would be an alarming transfer of U.S. sovereignty to an unelected U.N. bureaucrat.” Leftist outfits like Snopes and The Washington Post have taken great pains to dispel “conspiracy theories” about this year’s World Health Assembly, which “is usually considered a dry, technocratic event,” but they achieve nothing more than missing the main point. The very trouble they take to defend the Biden administration’s amendments demonstrate something more is going on.
The concluding notes of the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t satisfy the Biden administration. Their efforts to chase down increasingly unrealistic objectives with increasingly onerous mandates ended with the virus mostly burning itself out, even while the administration was still arrayed on the losing side of multiple legal battles. Pharmaceutical companies, public health agencies, and administration officials all suffered precipitous drops in credibility. It seems that the administration has finally admitted to itself what most of the country already knew — the executive branch lacks the power to unilaterally impose its desired draconian response to a public health emergency under current U.S. law.
But instead of concluding that extreme public health responses were out of bounds, the administration has tried to steal a run on the American people. The Biden administration’s proposed amendments to the World Health Assembly’s international health regulations seem calculated to force a nation’s hand on public health matters, if a global cadre can agree on the measures they should take. If the amendments were ratified, an administration could defend extreme measures during the next pandemic by protesting that they simply had to take certain actions because of international consensus.
As problematic as such surrender of sovereignty would be under any circumstances, it is even more concerning given the WHO’s pathetic response to COVID-19. “This is the same organization that parroted the narrative from the Chinese Communist Party throughout the COVID pandemic,” said FRC President Tony Perkins. First, they said, “it’s not human-to-human transmission. And then they sat on [data] for so long. And they failed really at every turn, even so much that the previous administration withdrew the United States from the World Health Organization.” Alexander agreed that the WHO was “a captured organization,” dependent on giant pharmaceutical companies and rich donors. “This is not an independent, neutral bureaucratic organization, … not an organization that is looking to the common good of its members.”
In his opening address on Sunday, WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus asserted that the pandemic is “most certainly not over.” Alexander warned Ghebreyesus is “China’s man,” a former Marxist warlord in Ethiopia who obtained his position “with the lobbying of the Chinese.” Is that really who we want running public health here in America?
Originally published at the Family Research Council.
Joshua Arnold is Media Coordinator for Family Research Council.