Sen. Patrick Leahy, at the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland yesterday, speaks on the Senate’s bipartisan support for aide for Ukraine. In a letter to a constituent, Leahy promises that any new powers granted to the World Health Organization in the global health treaty will need to be ratified by the Senate.
By Guy Page
The World Health Organization (WHO) – a United Nations organization – is holding its 75th World Health Assembly this week in Geneva. A subject of discussion – and some worry, decision – is a global pandemic treaty that critics like Matt Staver of The Liberty Council and James Rogulski say threatens national sovereignty.
Not to worry, Sen. Patrick Leahy wrote to a constituent in a recent letter. No treaty can bind the U.S. without Congressional approval, Vermont’s retiring senior senator said. However, critics say treaties are already in place.
The WHO wants a robust global health treaty (pg. 14) to strengthen its ability to respond to the next pandemic. The final treaty would go to a WHO membership vote in 2024.
As part of the multi-year treaty preparation process, amendments proposed April 12 by the Biden administration would make the member state process less collaborative. For example, the WHO would not need a response from a member state suspected of pandemic activity before taking steps – such as sharing information with other member states. While the amendments appear to stop short of handing over national sovereignty, they do shift some decision-making powers to the WHO.
According to the Liberty Council, “Covid-19: Make It the Last Pandemic,” a report published by the United Nations in May 2021, claims that the “pandemic” would have been prevented if the WHO had been given more global authority. The report states, “In its current form, the WHO does not possess such powers …To move on with the treaty, WHO therefore needs to be empowered — financially, and politically… The treaty should possess an adaptable incentive regime, [including] sanctions such as public reprimands, economic sanctions, or denial of benefits.”
180 miles away from Geneva, in Davos, Switzerland, Sen. Patrick Leahy is participating in the World Economic Forum (WEC). Its agenda is focused mostly on climate, although one session will address the ongoing need for Covid-19 vaccination in developing countries.
Not surprisingly, then, many Vermonters are wondering if Pat Leahy, over in Switzerland, will be making decisions this week on America’s sovereignty regarding a global health treaty. The short answer appears to be “no.” However, a letter from Leahy to a constituent does show his awareness of the treaty process, his support of its goals, and his confidence – possibly misplaced, the constituent suggests – of Congress’s ability to prevent any actual loss of national sovreignty to the global health police.
The letter by Sen. Patrick Leahy to a citizen was forwarded to Vermont Daily Chronicle this morning, with this note:
“Following is Pat Leahy’s reply to my message about the WHO international plandemic treaty usurping national sovereignty. As you can see he’s delivering the message that the Senate would need to ratify to take effect, but if I am understanding James Roguski, the treaty was already approved, and the amendments to the treaty that will be discussed and voted on in two days would not require Senate ratification. An executive order could approve it. Even an EO may not be necessary as the amendments may take effect after 60 days. This deserves further parsing.”
The following is the full text of Leahy’s letter:
Dear Mr. –
Thank you for contacting me about the ongoing discussions about reforming the World Health Organization’s global pandemic response in a new treaty. I support efforts to improve global pandemic preparedness while maintaining Congress’s unique role in ratifying treaties.
During the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been over 520 million recorded cases of COVID-19 and an estimated 15 million deaths globally. These numbers are astonishing and heartbreaking, but cannot encompass the emotional, social, and financial hardships that this pandemic has caused Americans and all people. The widespread impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has also demonstrated the urgent need to improve pandemic preparedness internationally. The world is interconnected and we must prepare for and battle global health emergencies together with our international partners. That is why the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations’ health agency, has and will continue to play a crucial role in responding to and preventing pandemics.
In February 2022, discussions about improving the WHO’s response to pandemics began with a target date of May 2024 for a treaty to be adopted by member countries of the United Nations. The WHO has previously adopted regulations for public health events that may cross borders and affect several countries, which are known as the International Health Regulations. Many critics have argued that these rules are sufficient for localized epidemics but inadequate for a global pandemic. Discussions about proposed regulations in the new treaty are ongoing, and I will continue to y monitor their progress.
The United States Constitution states that the President “shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur.” I take this congressional oversight role in the treaty process very seriously. As discussions surrounding the new WHO pandemic treaty continue, I will work to ensure that Congress exercises our appropriate oversight role.
End of letter.