Senate Republicans push to halt nomination hearings over scuttled COVID-19 origins investigation

Senate Republicans are calling on the chamber’s leadership to halt confirmation of nominees involved in ending an investigation into the origins of COVID-19.

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Sens. Bill Hagerty and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Roger Marshall of Kansas said two nominees for State Department positions, Elliot Kang and Bonnie Jenkins, should clarify their roles in ending an inquiry into whether the virus originated in China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, which they say the Biden administration ended prematurely.

“The results of a nonpartisan arms control investigation into dual use research and potential Biological Weapons Convention violations at the Wuhan Institute of Virology are crucial to understanding the origin of the coronavirus,” the senators wrote in separate letters sent to Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair and ranking member Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, and James E. Risch, Idaho Republican, respectively.

“The American people deserve transparency from senior government officials,” they wrote.

Ms. Jenkins is the administration’s nominee for undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. Mr. Kang is the nominee for assistant secretary of state for international security and non-proliferation.

Ms. Jenkins served on the State Department review team and Mr. King served as the acting assistant secretary for the Bureau of International Security when the senators say the Biden administration ended the investigation.

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In May, President Biden shut down a Trump administration investigation, led by the State Department, looking into the virus’ origins. Shortly after ending the effort, Mr. Biden directed the Intelligence Community to “redouble their efforts” in looking into the origins after receiving an inconclusive report about the virus’ beginnings.

“The United States will also keep working with like-minded partners around the world to press China to participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation and provide access to all relevant data and evidence,” Mr. Biden said in a statement.

The senators gave the nominees until mid-July to respond to their questions.

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