United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo participates in a news briefing with members of the Coronavirus Task Force at the White House on April 8 in Washington, D.C. Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI | License Photo
April 23 (UPI) -- House Democrats urged President Donald Trump on Thursday to reinstate funding to the World Health Organization as the State Department's top diplomat said they may never contribute to the United Nations agency again.
Democratic members of the House committee on foreign affairs told Trump in a letter that his decision last week to halt funding to the WHO is "profoundly misguided," charging the president with using the agency as a "scapegoat" to deflect from his "mismanaged and politicized response to the pandemic."
Last week, President Donald Trump announced the United States -- the U.N. health agency's largest contributor at more than $890 million -- would be halting future funding over its "mismanaging and covering up the spread" of the coronavirus.
Amid the pandemic, the Trump administration has frequently leveled criticism at China for conducting a cover-up of its initial response to the virus and at the WHO for its handling of the situation.
The foreign affairs committee said the WHO is not perfect and a review of its early handling of the health crisis should be thoroughly reviewed, especially its dealings with China, but now is not the time to halt funding.
"Halting funding to the WHO at this time is like cutting funding to the fire department in the middle of a blaze," read the letter signed by all 26-panel Democratic members. "Retreating from global health institutions at this time will only hinder our ability to fight the coronavirus, thus putting our national security and American lives at risk."
The letter was sent to the president on the heels of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stating funding may never be restored and that the WHO is in need of "a structural fix."
Pompeo charged China in an interview with Laura Ingraham of Fox News late Wednesday with continuing to be opaque and closed with the United States about the information it has on COVID-19 and said the WHO is failing its responsibility to achieve that needed transparency.
"They're not doing it. They need to be held accountable," he said of the WHO.
Days after Trump pulled the WHO's funding, 17 Republicans called for its reinstatement to be conditioned on the resignation of the agency's director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Asked if he thought Ghebreyesus' removal might be a requirement for the resumption of funding, Pompeo replied that may not be enough.
"Even more than that, it may be the case that the United States can never return to underwriting having U.S. taxpayer dollars go to the WHO," he said. "We may need to have bolder change than that."
China has frequently refuted U.S. accusations over its response to the pandemic, pointing to praise from the WHO over its response during the early days of the outbreak.
On Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters that China has been transparent since the outbreak began.
"The Chinese government has been nothing but open, transparent and responsible in timely informing the WHO and relevant countries and regions, including the United States, of pandemic-related information," he said.
On Thursday, China said it was donating an additional $30 million to the WHO to make up for the U.S shortfall.
After Trump pulled funding, Ghebreyesus urged him to reconsider, calling for unity against a common enemy.