The bill requires the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to submit an unclassified report to Congress “with redactions only as necessary to protect sources and methods.”
“By passing this bipartisan bill, Congress has sent a clear message that it’s critical to provide full transparency regarding what is known about how this pandemic started, how taxpayer dollars may have been spent on risky research, and if labs performing such research are upholding the highest standards of safety,” said House Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and her subcommittee chairs in a statement after the vote.
They warned Biden that vetoing the bill would cause “irreparable damage” to “our ability to restore public trust in government.”
But House Intelligence Committee ranking member Jim Himes (D-Conn.), who supported the bill, warned that the intelligence won’t reveal the virus origin.
“I have seen all of the classified information on this and we don’t know, we don’t know the origins of the Covid pandemic,” he said during floor debate.
While the Department of Energy and the FBI have come out recently in favor of the lab leak hypothesis, they did not release the evidence buttressing their assessment. Energy said it had low confidence in the assessment, while the FBI said it had medium confidence.
The intelligence community remains divided on how the pandemic started, with other agencies asserting it most likely had a natural origin.
Why it matters: The Covid origin debate has come back to the fore because Republicans won control of the House and decided to organize hearings and investigations into how the pandemic started.
A determination that the virus leaked from a Chinese lab would significantly complicate the U.S.-China relationship, and also erode trust in leading scientists who have argued an animal most likely transmitted it to humans.