By Caden Pearson
The U.S. Senate on March 1 unanimously passed a bill requiring the Biden administration to declassify intelligence related to the origins of COVID-19.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) made a request for unanimous consent of the bill, which was granted “without objection.” Unanimous consent enables a bill to pass without a recorded vote if no senator objects.
The bill, known as the COVID-19 Origin Act of 2023, specifically aims to investigate the possibility that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China.
Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) reintroduced the bill on Monday after the Department of Energy (DOE) provided a classified intelligence report to the White House and certain members of Congress, which concluded that the COVID-19 pandemic most likely arose from a lab leak. The FBI had previously come to a similar conclusion.
“Tonight the Senate UNANIMOUSLY passed my bill to declassify all the intelligence the government has on #covid origins. Let the people see the truth!” Hawley wrote on Twitter.
In further comments during an appearance on Fox News’ “Jesse Watters Primetime,” Hawley cited the importance of transparency and accountability in allowing the public to understand the origins of the pandemic.
Hawley told Watters that the bill needs to pass in the House of Representatives, “and then we can get this thing done.” The Senate passed a similar bill unanimously in 2021, but Democrats controlled the House then. Republicans gained a majority in the lower chamber in January.
The bill would require Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to declassify the information in the U.S. government’s possession on the most likely origins of COVID-19.
“Listen, the American people—it’s past time—let’s show them what the government has. Let everybody see for themselves. Let everybody read it,” Hawley Fox News after the vote.
Braun also declared the unanimous passage of the motion, likewise calling on the House to pass the bill.
“The House needs to pass this bill to let the American people see the facts! President Biden can’t ignore this: time to let Americans decide for ourselves,” he wrote on Twitter.
‘Skeptics Stand Vindicated’
On Monday, Hawley expressed concerns about the lack of transparency surrounding the pandemic’s origins, saying that for “nearly three years,” those questioning the Wuhan lab leak theory were “silenced and branded as a conspiracy theorist.”
However, the DOE’s report supports oft-maligned hypotheses that the virus emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is located nearby to a wet market broadly cited as the pandemic’s ground zero.
“Now, these prudent skeptics stand vindicated,” Hawley said in a statement. “The Biden administration must immediately declassify all intelligence reports pertaining to the origins of COVID-19 and the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The American people deserve to know the truth.”
Braun also criticized the Biden administration for its posturing on the lab leak theory.
“The Biden administration has called the lab leak theory a conspiracy theory from the beginning, and has only started to publicly admit they were wrong as the evidence becomes overwhelming,” Braun said in a statement.
Braun said that the Biden administration had kept information about the origins of COVID-19 a secret despite an earlier version of this bill passing the Senate unanimously in 2021.
“The American people deserve transparency, free from government censors or media spin. It’s time to declassify everything we know about COVID’s origins and the Wuhan Institute of Virology, now,” he said.
FBI Confirms Likely Lab Incident
On Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray confirmed that the bureau had assessed the COVID-19 pandemic likely resulted from a lab incident in Wuhan, China.
“The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origin of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan,” Wray told Fox News host Bret Baier in an interview late Tuesday.
“Here you’re talking about a potential leak from a Chinese government-controlled lab that killed millions of Americans,” he added.
However, he noted that many details surrounding the pandemic’s origins remained classified.
Wray also said China’s ruling communist regime has been interfering with U.S. and international efforts to probe the origins of the pandemic.
“The Chinese government, it seems to me, has been doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate the work here—the work that we’re doing, the work that our U.S. government and close foreign partners are doing,” he said. “And that’s unfortunate for everybody.”
According to a report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the intelligence community (IC) is divided on the most likely origin of COVID-19. However, they all agree on two most plausible scenarios: natural exposure to an infected animal or a laboratory-associated incident.
Four IC elements and the National Intelligence Council assess with “low confidence” that the initial SARS-CoV-2 infection was most likely caused by natural exposure to an animal infected with it or a close progenitor virus, the report states.
One IC element assesses with moderate confidence that the first human infection most likely resulted from a laboratory-associated incident.
Meanwhile, analysts at three IC elements want further information before they make their assessments, with some leaning towards a natural origin, others a laboratory origin, and some open to both theories.
The Chinese regime has long dismissed the possibility of a lab leak, saying the virus’s origins “should not be politicized.” Its efforts to suppress the theory recently included warning Elon Musk, the billionaire owner of Twitter, Tesla, and SpaceX, not to share the lab leak report.