Senator Rand Paul wants to investigate the origins of COVID-19

SMITHFIELD, Kentucky (AP) – U.S. Senator Rand Paul pledged Saturday to do a vigorous review of the origins of the coronavirus if Republicans retake the Senate and he wins the committee chair.

Speaking to supporters at a campaign rally, the libertarian-leaning Kentucky Republican denounced what he sees as government overreach in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He applauded a recent judge’s order that overturned the federal mandate for masks on planes and trains and at travel centers.

“Last week I was on a plane for the first time in two years and I didn’t have to wear a mask,” he said, to cheers from the partisan crowd. “And you know what I saw at the airport? I saw at least 97% of the other free individuals not wearing masks.”

Paul repeatedly clashed with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, on the government’s policies on COVID-19 and the origins of the virus that caused the global pandemic.

Paul, who is seeking a third term this year in Republican-leaning Kentucky, said he is in line to take over a committee chair if the GOP gains control of the Senate after the November election. The Senate currently has a 50-50 split, but Democrats have the upper hand because Vice President Kamala Harris is a tiebreaker.

“When we take office in November, I will be chairman of a committee and I will have subpoena power,” Paul said. “And we will get to the bottom of where this virus came from.”

The senator, an eye surgeon, continued to offer his theory on the origins of the virus.

“If you look at the evidence, overwhelmingly, not 100%, but overwhelmingly the evidence points to this virus being a leak from a lab,” Paul said.

In the US, many conservatives have accused Chinese scientists of developing COVID-19 in a lab and allowing it to leak.

U.S. intelligence agencies remain divided over the origins of the coronavirus, but believe that China’s leaders did not know about the virus before the global pandemic began, according to a review ordered by Biden and released last summer.

Scientific consensus remains that the virus likely migrated from animals in what is known as zoonotic transmission. So-called “overflow events” occur in nature and there are at least two coronaviruses that evolved in bats and caused human epidemics, SARS1 and MERS.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, the state’s senior senator, also pointed to Paul’s opportunity to lead a committee if the GOP gains control of the Senate. If that happens, he said Paul would become chairman of “one of the most important committees in the Senate, in charge of health, education, work and pensions.”

McConnell was upbeat about Republican prospects in November.

“I’ve never seen a better environment for us than this year,” said McConnell, who is in line to become majority leader again if the GOP regains the Senate.

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