MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives began its 21st legislative day Thursday in gridlock over a joint resolution encouraging federal lawmakers to permanently end taxpayer funding of the World Health Organization (WHO).

House Democrats vigorously opposed the resolution and grilled bill sponsor State Rep. Mack Butler (R-Rainbow City).

Butler said the resolution was a response to the proposed WHO "Pandemic Agreement," a treaty between the WHO's 194 member states that purports to fill in the holes in the COVID-19 pandemic response and help better combat future pandemics. Many Republicans in Congress have opposed the treaty.

"This would not prevent us from following any suggestions, but we would not be mandating," Butler said. "This is just simply to encourage Congress to cease funding them. We've been funding them hundreds of millions of dollars a year, but they don't give us any credence."

House Democrats came out swinging against the resolution, repeatedly asking Butler for details surrounding its claims.

"You said they have a history of mismanagement, and I want specifics," said State Rep. Barbara Drummond D-Mobile)

"I can't give that to you off the top of my head," Butler responded.

"But you're sponsoring a resolution that has the language in it," Drummond retorted.

Butler later described a situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in which WHO workers sexually abused or exploited over 100 women for whom they were meant to provide vaccine aid during the Ebola outbreak between 2018 and 2020.

The WHO paid the women $250, which equals about 1% of the $2 million WHO-created "survivor assistance fund" for victims of sexual misconduct, primarily in Congo, according to the Associated Press.

Butler joined many others during that time who accused WHO of covering up the abuse.

Several other Democratic lawmakers praised the WHO for its actions during COVID-19,

After taking a moment to talk about his death penalty moratorium resolution, which did not make it out of committee, State Rep. Thomas Jackson (D-Thomasville) condemned the "conspiracy theorists that [are] going on about the World Health Organization."

Jackson then went on a rant about former President Donald Trump, falsely claiming that Trump advised Americans to inject bleach, among other dubious assertions.

"If it had not been for the World Health Organization, more than a million people would have died in America," Jackson said. "Cause that man wanted you to inject bleach, drink some Clorox, do some ultraviolet lights up your rectum; that's going to cure COVID."  

Thomas Jackson Alabama News
State Rep. Thomas Jackson blasts resolution condemning WHO. Photo: Craig Monger.

Less than an hour earlier, the House unanimously passed a resolution commending Taiwan's relationship with Alabama. Elliott Wang, the director-general for the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Atlanta, spoke in the House chamber, boasting of Alabama's relationship with Taiwan. Wang wrote an opinion piece in 2022, published in 1819 News, decrying the WHO's refusal to acknowledge the "innovative anti-pandemic measures" deployed by Taiwan, citing "political manipulation in the WHO by China."

Democrats' criticism was scattered and often confusing. Most offered a case for international cooperation concerning public health and praised the WHO for its actions during COVID-19.

Butler lacked specificity when quizzed on certain incidents. However, he did give general criticisms of the WHO's relationship with China, claiming the WHO was complicit in covering up the origins of COVID and the following lockdown measures.

"All over this nation, even here, illegally, the executive branch made mandates, which was making law that means that it's not worth the paper it's written on because the legislative body didn't pass it," Butler said. "Whether it was church, or wearing a mask or whatever."

The resolution made several claims against the WHO, including:

  • The WHO has "proven itself to be a corrupt organization that has hampered worldwide public health efforts."

  • The WHO "has a history of mismanagement and scandals, including the cover-up of severe sexual abuse by its staff in the Democratic Republic of the Congo."

  • The WHO "is an opaque organization unaccountable to the United States government despite receiving between $200 and $600 million annually in United States taxpayer subsidies over the past decade."

  • "[T]he WHO has chosen to place in positions of leadership on its executive board representatives of extreme authoritarian regimes such as the People's Republic of China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the Syrian Arab Republic, and Belarus in complete disregard for the human rights abuses regularly committed by these regimes."

  • "[A]t the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak and throughout the pandemic, WHO officials were complicit with the government of the People's Republic of China in preventing international understanding of the virus and its effects and in covering up its origins, thereby increasing the severity of the pandemic and its death toll."

  • [T]he WHO is currently "in the process of drafting new International Health Regulations and a proposed Pandemic Preparedness Treaty that will further expand the organization's authority and empower unelected international bureaucrats through a 'One Health' mandate to override national sovereignty in areas including energy, agriculture, climate, and public health."

The resolution also encourages Congress and the Biden administration to permanently remove funding from the WHO and reject any policy that would "in any way further empower this ineffective and corrupt organization."

After much Democratic grandstanding, the house carried the bill over, taking it back up at the end of the legislative day. After more Democratic bluster, the resolution passed with a vote of 64-28.

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