OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Imagine what it would take to get 419 members of the House of Representatives, the most conservative and the most liberal, to vote unanimously together on something, and then realize that it just happened.
In a 419 – 0 vote the House voted on Friday to declassify all intelligence reports on the origins of the COVID pandemic, CBS News reported.
The bill, which already passed the Senate, would require Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to declassify any information about links between the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the controversial viral research laboratory in the city where the SARS-CoV-2 virus first emerged. The vote in the House was 419 to 0.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre did not directly answer whether the president would sign the legislation, saying, “We’re taking a look at the bill.”
The intelligence community has not definitively agreed on the origins of the pandemic. A report in 2021 reflecting the findings of intelligence community was inconclusive, and determined two theories were “plausible” to explain how the virus emerged: “natural exposure to an infected animal and a laboratory-associated incident.” The Department of Energy recently concluded, with “low confidence,” that it was plausible that the virus originated from a lab, a theory supported by the FBI.
The legislation was introduced last week by Republican Sens. Josh Hawley and Mike Braun and passed the Senate with unanimous consent so whether Biden signs it or not it appears to have the support to override a veto.
“Now the American people will be able to see what their government knows about COVID origins – and those who lied about it can be held accountable,” Sen. Hawley said.
Now the American people will be able to see what their government knows about COVID origins – and those who lied about it can be held accountable
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) March 10, 2023
Democrat Rep. Raul Ruiz, a doctor and the ranking member of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, said that the legislation was needed.
“Understanding the root causes of the COVID-19 pandemic is important to help prevent a future pandemic,” he said. “Under President Biden’s direction and leadership, the intelligence community has been hard at work gathering information to answer the question of whether COVID-19 started as a lab leak or animal transmission. The evidence, as of today, is inconclusive. It is important that the American people have as much objective information as possible without extreme partisan rhetoric.”
“The American public deserves answers to every aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic, including how this virus was created and specifically, whether it was a natural occurrence of was the result of a lab-related event,” Republican Ohio Rep. Mike Turner, who is the chairman of the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee, said to Fox News.
“The House intelligence committee, which oversees our intelligence community, is aware of classified information that could help inform the public why COVID-19 as a lab leak theory is not just a possibility, but approaches the idea that it is likely,” he said.
The vote comes after the .S. Department of Energy has allegedly handed a classified report to the White House and key members of Congress that said it came to the conclusion that the pandemic was the result of a lab leak due to new intelligence, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The new report highlights how different parts of the intelligence community have arrived at disparate judgments about the pandemic’s origin. The Energy Department now joins the Federal Bureau of Investigation in saying the virus likely spread via a mishap at a Chinese laboratory. Four other agencies, along with a national intelligence panel, still judge that it was likely the result of a natural transmission, and two are undecided.
The Energy Department’s conclusion is the result of new intelligence and is significant because the agency has considerable scientific expertise and oversees a network of U.S. national laboratories, some of which conduct advanced biological research.
The Energy Department made its judgment with “low confidence,” according to people who have read the classified report.
The FBI previously came to the conclusion that the pandemic was likely the result of a lab leak in 2021 with “moderate confidence” and still holds to this view.