U.S. Senator Rand Paul vowed on Saturday to conduct a thorough analysis of the origins of the coronavirus if Republicans regain their Senate seat and he takes over as committee chairman.
Speaking to supporters at a campaign rally, the Libertarian Republican from Kentucky denounced what he sees as excessive government intervention in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He applauded the judge’s recent ruling ending the federal mandate to wear on planes, trains and visitor centers.
“Last week, I flew in an airplane for the first time in two years and didn’t have to wear a mask,” he said, drawing cheers from the guerrilla crowd. “And you know what I saw at the airport? at least 97% of other free people don’t wear masks.”
Paul has repeatedly clashed with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, over government policy on COVID-19 and the origin of the virus that caused the global pandemic.
Paul, who is running for a third term in Kentucky this year, said he could become committee chairman if the Republican Party gains control of the Senate after the November election. The Senate is currently split 50-50, but the Democrats have a slight lead because Vice President Kamala Harris is the casting vote.
“When we take over in November, I will be chairman of the committee and will have the authority to issue a subpoena,” 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 about the origin of the virus.
“If you look at the evidence, overwhelmingly, not 100%, but overwhelmingly, the evidence indicates that this virus is a lab leak,” Paul said.
In the US, many conservatives have accused Chinese scientists of developing COVID-19 in a lab and leaking it.
U.S. intelligence agencies remain divided over the origins of the coronavirus but believe China’s leaders were unaware of the virus prior to the global pandemic, according to a review commissioned by Biden last summer.
The scientific consensus remains that the virus most likely migrated from animals through what is known as zoonotic transmission. There are so-called “side effects” in nature, and there are at least two coronaviruses that have developed in bats and caused epidemics in humans: SARS1 and MERS.
At a GOP rally in Kentucky in support of Paul, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, the state’s senior senator, also pointed to Paul’s ability to chair the committee if the GOP gained control of the Senate.
If that happens, he said, Paul will become chairman of “one of the most important committees in the Senate—health, education, labor, and pensions.”
McConnell was bullish on the Republican outlook in November.
“I’ve never seen better conditions for us than this year,” said McConnell, who could become majority leader again if the Republican Party regains the Senate.
The rally was attended by a number of other prominent Kentucky Republicans, including several who are considering running for governor in 2023, when Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is running for a second term.
In his speech, Paul continued to oppose socialism, saying that it encroaches on individual freedoms. The senator was first elected to the Senate in 2010 when the tea party began.
“When President Trump said he wanted to ‘make America great again,’ I said, ‘Amen,'” Paul said.
In this year’s Senate race in Kentucky, Charles Booker is by far the most prominent of the handful of Democrats seeking his party’s nomination to replace Paul in the May 17 primary. Paul is challenged by several obscure candidates in the GOP primary. The general election campaign between Paul and Booker will be a battle between candidates with very different philosophies.
Booker, a black former state legislator, nearly lost his bid for the Democratic Senate nomination in 2020. He is a progressive who touts Medicare for All, anti-poverty programs, the clean energy agenda, and changes in criminal justice. Paul, a former presidential candidate, has amassed a huge fundraising lead over Booker.
Kentucky has not elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since Wendell Ford in 1992.