Global public health accountability act proposed by Blackburn, GOP colleagues

U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) recently joined several of her Republican colleagues to introduce legislation that would authorize the President of the United States to sanction foreign officials who conceal or distort information about global public health crises, including COVID-19.  

“Any actions by foreign governments to suppress those who provide pertinent information about public health crises are unacceptable,” Sen. Blackburn said, “and they must be held accountable to the fullest extent.”

Sen. Blackburn on June 9 signed on as an original cosponsor of the Li Wenliang Global Public Health Accountability Act of 2021, S. 1987, which is sponsored by U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), as well as cosponsors including U.S. Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Steve Daines (R-MT).

“The Chinese Communist Party silenced Dr. Li and many others for attempting to speak the truth about the coronavirus outbreak and Beijing’s involvement,” said Sen. Blackburn. “Meanwhile, they stood by as the virus spread around the world, resulting in loss of life and loss of livelihood for millions.”

Sen. Tillis pointed out that doctors and scientists across the world deserve robust protections that allow them to sound the alarm on international public health concerns without fear of government suppression. “Dr. Li Wenliang heroically tried to warn Chinese citizens about COVID-19, only to be silenced by the authoritarian Chinese Communist Party until his tragic death,” he said.

“The American people and the entire world deserve to know the origins of this pandemic, which China continues to cover up,” Sen. Daines added. “We need to ensure there are real consequences for foreign officials who try to cover up their country’s role in an international crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic going forward.”

If enacted, S. 1987 would authorize the president of the United States to institute sanctions such as inadmissibility to the United States, revocation of existing U.S. visas, and the blocking of all property within the U.S., according to Sen. Blackburn’s bill summary.

The bill also would provide Congress with the authority to request that the POTUS review specific foreign officials for sanctions eligibility, the summary says, and within 120 days of receiving such a request, the president must report to Congress on whether such sanctions would be imposed.