MURPHY: IF WE DON’T STOP COVID-19 EVERYWHERE, WE DON’T STOP IT ANYWHERE

Full Transcript of Murphy Remarks on Global Health Funding Video Press Conference with CARE COO Tjada McKenna and former USAID Administrator Gayle Smith

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Wednesday joined CARE COO Tjada McKenna and former USAID Administrator and ONE Campaign CEO Gayle Smith to discuss the importance of global health funding as a way to strengthen the anti-pandemic response globally.

Murphy said: “The fact of the matter is that a disease that started in the fall on the other side of the world has only six months later shut down the American economy to the point where we are going to reach unemployment levels that are as high or higher than the Great Depression. If that isn't an advertisement for why the United States needs to be globally involved, then I don't know what is. And while I appreciate the funding that we have allocated the USAID, it is simply not enough. Because if you don't stop this virus everywhere, then you haven't stopped it anywhere.”

“The more that instability and hunger exists on the other side of the world, the more that instability presents a danger to the United States. And I believe, as the most powerful, most affluent nation in the world that there should be some element of altruism to our foreign policy, we should seek to try to alleviate misery, and harm, and hunger across the world. But for those that only believe in a Machiavellian realism, then I also would argue that this pandemic is another advertisement for why in order to protect the United States, you need to be a global health leader. Because had we been more forward deployed around the world, we frankly could have done more to stop this virus in its tracks before it got to the United States,” Murphy continued.

Murphy also discussed the imbalance of our global health funding when compared to other aspects of our budget: “Right now we're spending about $11 billion every year in the global public health budget. That's compared to about $740 billion for the Department of Defense. Now, we still have to protect this nation against the conventional military attack, but I don't think there's anybody in the United States today, who would tell you that we should be spending 50 to 100 times as much money on conventional military hardware as we do protecting this country against a global pandemic, given what we are living through today. And so, we simply have to understand that we are just fundamentally mis-resourced when it comes to the actual threats that are presented to the United States.”

On the call, Murphy also discussed the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) language in the fourth COVID-19 stimulus bill released on Tuesday, and discussed the bipartisan momentum to increase global health funding as a result of COVID-19.

Murphy has advocated for an increase in our global health funding since the start of COVID-19. Murphy introduced bipartisan legislation with U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) to reaffirm U.S. commitment to global health security, and reorient the United States’ global pandemic response amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and authored an op-ed in Foreign Policy about why the United States was virtually impotent from stopping COVID-19 from reaching our shores and what can be done better if and when the next pandemic strikes. Senator Murphy has also written about the need to empower the World Health Organization as a way to strengthen our anti-pandemic response in War on the Rocks, and has urged Pompeo to donate at least $500 million to the United Nations to help fight COVID-19 globally.

A full transcript of Senator Murphy’s remarks can be found below as well as his answer to a question on global health funding in the HEROES Act:

“Tjada thank you very, very much for having me today. Thank you to CARE and all the amazing work that you do and the challenge that you repeatedly pose to policymakers to step up and recognize the just tremendous shortfall that exists today across the world between the humanitarian need and the resources that are there to meet that need. And I'm just thrilled to be on the call as well with one of my heroes Gayle Smith. Gayle of course has guided many of us including two presidents on policy related to U.S. funding of development and humanitarian needs overseas and eager to hear her remarks today as well.

“Tjada, you are right, that we should be proud of the $2 billion investment that we have already made as part of these early relief packages in international assistance. But, when you compare that $2 billion investment to the $4 trillion that we have already spent responding to this crisis, it doesn't seem to match the moment or the need, or in fact, the fact pattern that delivered us to this moment today.

“The fact of the matter is that a disease that started in the fall on the other side of the world has only six months later shut down the American economy to the point where we are going to reach unemployment levels that are as high, or higher than the Great Depression.

“If that isn't an advertisement for why the United States needs to be globally involved, then I don't know what is. And while I appreciate the funding that we have allocated the USAID, it is simply not enough. Because if you don't stop this virus everywhere, then you haven't stopped it anywhere.

“And frankly, that is the case that we have been making on a host of international fronts. The more that instability and hunger exists on the other side of the world, the more that instability presents a danger to the United States. And I believe, as the most powerful, most affluent nation in the world that there should be some element of altruism to our foreign policy, we should seek to try to alleviate misery, and harm, and hunger across the world. But for those that only believe in a Machiavellian realism, then I also would argue that this pandemic is another advertisement for why in order to protect the United States, you need to be a global health leader.

“Because had we been more forward deployed around the world, we frankly could have done more to stop this virus in its tracks before it got to the United States.

“And I maybe want to spend my last couple of minutes talking about the ways in which we need to reinvest in global public health moving forward.

“First of all, let's just talk about the overall imbalance that exists today. Right now we're spending about $11 billion every year in the global public health budget. That's compared to about $740 billion for the Department of Defense.

“Now, we still have to protect this nation against the conventional military attack, but I don't think there's anybody in the United States today, who would tell you that we should be spending 50 to 100 times as much money on conventional military hardware as we do protecting this country against a global pandemic, given what we are living through today.

“And so we simply have to understand that we are just fundamentally mis-resourced when it comes to the actual threats that are presented to the United States.

“So what do we do? Well, first, we've got to be able to monitor and plan. So Tjada, you mentioned that there's bipartisan support behind many of these investments, and there are. Senator Romney and I have introduced legislation that would set up a global health security council, an interagency planning mechanism so that we can be looking ahead to the next potential public health crisis and having the ability to allocate resources ahead of time [instead of] asking Congress for new resources. That was a capability that Gayle helped set up in the Obama administration and it was dismantled by the Trump administration.

“Second, we need to respond to the humanitarian need that exists today. The UN has made a $6.7 billion global appeal of [which] the United States has contributed thus far, just $65 million. That's unconscionable.

“And what we know is that if, as you mentioned, if this virus continues to exist in a refugee camp on the other side of the world, then it continues to pose a threat to the United States, no matter how successful we are here domestically. And so, we should be stepping up and doing much more, leading the world response in terms of humanitarian assistance. It’s just the right thing to do, but it's also the smart thing to do from a perspective of domestic security.

“Third, we need to understand that there is no way to rebuild the international public health infrastructure without the World Health Organization [(WHO)]. The World Health Organization has no more inefficiencies or internal problems than any other international organization. And to the extent that the Trump administration argues that it has become too close to China, well, then they are effectively exacerbating the problem they're trying to solve by pulling the United States out of WHO.

“Frankly, I would argue that we should be increasing our support to WHO and we should be using that increased funding as leverage to try to get reforms that we and many other partners around the world believe are necessary.

“We should be part of a global effort to build a new vaccine. Right now, we're doing incredibly important work in the United States, but we could be doing much more efficient work by joining with other nations. There is a global public private sector vaccine effort underway right now, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. We should enter that coalition and be a part of developing a vaccine together with other partners. 

“And then we just need to dramatically upscale, our investment in public health personnel and public health diplomacy around the globe. Gayle can talk more about this, but we downsized the number of CDC personnel in China by about two thirds. We shuttered the PREDICT program, which was scanning the globe for early stage viruses and diseases so that we could learn more about them ahead of time. Those are programs that were vital, and need to be reestablished and frankly, supersized for this new moment.

“And then let me add, I said that was the last one, but let me add one last one last item. And that is to make sure, especially right now, we're taking a hard look at our sanctions policy. I would argue the United States has become a little bit too over enamored with sanctions as a mechanism to try to enforce our values and interests around the world. I would query how effective they are. But, we want to make sure that in a time of desperate life and death need, that our sanctions are not resulting in innocent civilians dying, because that will, frankly, harm our efforts to try to make the case that, for instance, in a place like Iran, our enemy is the regime not the people of that country.

“And so we need to take a look at our sanctions policy in Iran or Venezuela, to make sure that medicine and infrastructure necessary to keep people alive in those countries is allowed to move through our sanctions apparatus. Plenty of presidents in the past have done that, including President Bush and this president needs to do the same.

“So let me stop there. And just again, thank you for convening this call. And thank you for allowing me to be part of it.

“Almost everything I mentioned has bipartisan support, I think I'm going to make a pitch to my colleagues that the next relief bill should include a sizeable international title. There are portions of international programming in the House bill, but I think the Senate can do better and hopefully we'll be able to have that conversation soon. Thanks for having me.”

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[In response to a question about global health funding in the HEROES Act:]

“I think there's an enormous amount of bipartisan support in the Senate for significant international funding in the next emergency relief bill. Senator Graham and I have spoken on the phone a number of times about this priority. Senator Graham in fact convened a call with several members of both parties with the State Department to talk about the need for additional funding for a variety of international causes.

“And so, I think that the trick, I think the House bill is incredibly important. Obviously, it's enormous, we're all looking through it as we speak. I support the Speaker's focus on delivering a response that's big enough to meet the domestic need.

“But the trick moving forward will be making sure that we have a bill that enjoys bipartisan support. And I know one of the ways to get bipartisan support in the Senate is to include some funding for international relief programs that many Senate Republicans are enthusiastic to have part of that package. So, I don't know what the shape of the discussions will look like moving forward, but I do know that there is interest across the aisle in the Senate to fund some of the projects that we've been talking about.

“I will note that there is international programming in the House bill. For instance, one of the things we talked about is this international vaccine effort. The House bill does include authorizing language to bring the United States into the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. So, while you're right, that there, you know, isn't $12 billion in the House bill, there are elements of the House bill that point the United States towards a more robust international presence. And I think that there will be interest across the aisle in the Senate to include some international funding in these negotiations as they proceed.”

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