Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Tuesday introduced legislation that would allow President Trump to sanction the Chinese government if it refuses to cooperate with a U.S.-led investigation into the origins of the coronavirus.
“I’m convinced that without Chinese Communist Party deception the virus would not be here in the United States,” Graham said in a statement. “China refuses to allow the international community to go into the Wuhan lab to investigate. They refuse to allow investigators to study how this outbreak started. I’m convinced China will never cooperate with a serious investigation unless they are made to do so. This hard-hitting piece of legislation will sanction China until they cooperate with investigators. “
The COVID-19 Accountability Act would require Trump to certify to Congress that China had: cooperated with an international coronavirus investigation, led by either the U.S., an ally or a U.N. body; closed all relevant wet markets, and released Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters arrested during the crisis.
If not, then Trump would be authorized by Congress to impose a range of sanctions — including asset freezes, travel bans and measures barring U.S. institutions from making loans to Chinese businesses.
The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., Mike Braun, R-Ind., Rick Scott, R-Fla., Steve Daines, R-Mont., Todd Young, R-Ind., Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss.
“China must be more forthcoming as investigations begin and we endeavor to learn lessons from this disaster,” Hyde-Smith said. “This legislation will demonstrate to the communist regime in Beijing that the world needs answers on how this pandemic started and spread misery across the globe.”
It comes as part of a growing appetite in Congress to investigate and possibly punish the Chinese for their actions in the initial outbreak of the crisis.