House set to vote on bills to bar federal censorship, declassify COVID origins intel

Hearings in the GOP-led House giving boost to legislative action.

Published: March 6, 2023 4:38pm

Updated: March 9, 2023 5:05pm

The Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act and legislation requiring the declassification of intelligence related to COVID-19's origins are set for votes in the GOP-led House this week.

Kentucky GOP Rep. James Comer, chairman of House Oversight and Government Accountability Committee, sponsored the Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act, which provides that federal "employees acting in their official capacity should neither take action within their authority or influence to promote the censorship of any lawful speech, nor advocate that a third party, including a private entity, censor such speech."

The vote on the legislation comes after the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government held a hearing on "the politicization of the FBI and DOJ and attacks on American civil liberties."

Under the bill, a federal employee cannot use their "official authority to censor any private entity, including outside of normal duty hours and while such employee is away from the employee's normal duty post."

The final vote on the bill is set for Wednesday or Thursday.

The Democrat-led Senate last week passed a bill sponsored by Missouri GOP Sen. Josh Hawley that would "require the Director of National Intelligence to declassify information relating to the origin of COVID–19, and for other purposes." The GOP-led House has scheduled a Friday vote on the bill. 

The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic is holding its first hearing on COVID origins this week.

The hearing follows recent reports that both the Department of Energy and the FBI have assessed that a lab leak was the most likely origin of the virus.

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