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Chairman Risch Calls for a Comprehensive, Bipartisan Approach to COVID-19, Future Viruses

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today spoke on the Senate floor about the need for a comprehensive, bipartisan approach to developing protocols for viruses such as COVID-19. The chairman’s remarks were in response to Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who made an effort to call up a partisan resolution regarding vaccine research. Risch and Durbin came to an amicable agreement on the importance of pursuing a bipartisan solution in the coming weeks and months, with Risch committing to the inclusion of elements of Durbin’s proposals in this future effort.

risch on committee floor


Developing a Comprehensive Solution: “I think it's important that that we do accept that there are various ways that we can and should pursue the vaccine and the cure for this horrible scourge. This matter is a lot deeper than that. It is the intent of our committee to hold hearings and develop very comprehensive legislation regarding how we pursue this in the future. What's just recently happened to us is of great interest to all of us, but not nearly as important as to what's going to happen to us in the future.”

“On the Foreign Relations Committee, it is our intent to hold hearings to deliberate, as the U.S. Senate does, and to produce what hopefully will be a bipartisan piece of legislation… It is within the jurisdiction and the responsibility of our committee. We take it seriously.”

Calling for Bipartisanship: “This is not a political issue. This is not a Democrat issue. It is not a Republican issue. The virus doesn't care who you are or what you are, it’s just looking for a home. [We] need to deny it that home, and we will. I think we will make great strides as we go forward.”

Moving Forward: “I’m disturbed and disappointed that the Chinese government has viewed this [virus] as they have, and have not viewed it as we have – as a challenge that is going to take historical changes as we go forward… That is a huge challenge, but that shouldn’t stop us from making every effort that we can to go forward.”

“Given the population of the world and given… our travel and interconnectedness, this is going to happen again. We need to be ready for it and we need strong legislation that will address this not only at the U.S. level, but also at the international level. The United States has been the world leader in world health issues, and I anticipate that we will continue to be like that.”

Senator Durbin’s Response to Chairman Risch: “First, let me say to my friend and colleague from Idaho, thank you. The tone of your remarks was positive, constructive, bipartisan. That’s exactly what the American people are looking for… This national emergency, this public health crisis, should bring out the best of us, not the most political side of our nature… We do agree on so much more than we disagree on, I am sure of it, when it comes to this.”

Remarks have been lightly edited for clarity.

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