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A wet market in Hong Kong. Photo: Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

A rare bipartisan group of lawmakers is calling on global health organizations to permanently ban the buying and selling of live wildlife, which is likely the root cause of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Driving the news: Nearly 70 Democrats and Republicans from both chambers of Congress are sending a letter on Wednesday calling on top officials at the World Health Organization, UN and World Organization for Animal Health to do just that.

The big picture: Zoonotic diseases — those spread from animals to humans — are increasing and are more virulent, experts say. The lawmakers write that in the last 45 years, at least five pandemics have been traced to bats. This coronavirus likely came from bats or pangolins, an anteater-like mammal.

Where it stands: The UN biodiversity chief just called for the permanent ban on live wildlife markets, known as "wet" markets, and China moved to ban such markets in late February. The lawmakers want more aggressive and permanent moves.

What they're saying: China's ban has "significant loopholes," the lawmakers write in the letter, organized by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.).

  • China took similar steps after a far less widespread outbreak of another coronavirus in 2003 but "ultimately lifted the restrictions after the outbreak came under control and perceived risk decreased," the lawmakers write.

The intrigue: Multilateral, global institutions like the WHO are facing increasing scrutiny amid this pandemic.

  • On Tuesday, President Trump criticized the WHO and threatened to cut U.S. funding for it.
  • A smaller bipartisan group of senators sent another letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday asking him to work with the same institutions to ban wildlife markets.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

The state of play: Schumer announced the schedule after reaching an agreement with Republicans. The House will transmit the article of impeachment against the former president late Monday.

1 hour ago - Health

CDC extends interval between COVID vaccine doses for exceptional cases

Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty

Patients can space out the two doses of the coronavirus vaccine by up to six weeks if it’s "not feasible" to follow the shorter recommended window, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.

Driving the news: With the prospect of vaccine shortages and a low likelihood that supply will expand before April, the latest changes could provide a path to vaccinate more Americans — a top priority for President Biden.

Texas AG sues Biden administration over deportation freeze

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks to members of the media in 2016. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing the Biden administration in federal district court over its 100-day freeze on deporting unauthorized immigrants, and he's asking for a temporary restraining order.

Between the lines: The freeze went into effect Friday, temporarily halting most immigration enforcement in the U.S. In the lawsuit, Paxton claims the move "violates the U.S. Constitution, federal immigration and administrative law, and a contractual agreement between Texas" and the Department of Homeland Security.