Senators introduce only bipartisan, bicameral bill to create independent COVID-19 Commission modeled after 9/11 Commission
Commission would have broad mandate to investigate U.S. pandemic response, identify lessons learned, craft recommendations
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) introduced bipartisan legislation that would create an independent, non-partisan commission, closely modeled after the 9/11 Commission that investigated the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, to assess the nation’s pandemic preparedness and response. The commission would also provide recommendations to improve our country’s readiness for future public health crises.
“As our nation continues to respond to the current public health and economic crisis, we must also work to ensure that our country is better prepared for future epidemics and pandemics,” said Senator Collins. “Throughout history, Americans have repeatedly come together to overcome challenges. Following the devastating terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, for example, the independent, bipartisan 9/11 Commission that Congress established provided a thorough review of the events and identified ways to safeguard our nation. Many of the Commission’s recommendations were enacted into law as part of the sweeping intelligence reforms I co-authored to prevent future threats. The legislation Senator Menendez and I have introduced would establish a similar bipartisan commission that would assess our country’s successes as well as areas in need of improvement in responding to COVID-19. It would also examine ways we can strengthen our public health systems and protect our communities.”
“As we grieve the loss of more than half-a-million Americans to COVID-19, we have a responsibility to do a thorough, independent review of what happened, what went wrong and what we can do better, so we’re prepared for the next public health emergency,” said Senator Menendez. “Millions of American lives have been devastated, our health systems have been pushed to the brink, and our economy has been decimated. We can never put our country, our communities and our families through this again. This isn’t about pointing fingers, but learning from our experiences and promising to do better. In the aftermath of the worst public health catastrophe in our lifetimes, we will need to come together in a bipartisan way, as we did after 9/11, to do the serious, necessary work to protect American lives, because if we fail to learn anything from COVID-19, we are doomed to repeat this.”
The Commission would have a broad mandate and subpoena power to examine the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, and it would make a full and complete accounting of the nation’s preparedness and response, including but not limited to the following topics:
· Communication with foreign governments regarding public health threats, including early warning, detection, prevention and response;
· Federal, state and local intergovernmental coordination;
· Interagency communication and information sharing;
· Vaccine development and distribution;
· Public health surveillance and testing;
· Availability of medical equipment and supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPE);
· Preparedness and response of hospital, nursing homes and other congregate settings;
· Domestic and global supply chain vulnerabilities with respect to PPE and other critical supplies, therapeutics, and vaccines;
· Scientific research;
· Economic relief policies;
· Health and economic disparities affecting racial and ethnic minority populations and other communities that have been disproportionately harmed; and
· State, local, tribal, and territorial government preparedness and response
The National Coronavirus Commission would craft policy recommendations after identifying the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic regarding the structure, coordination and procedures of the federal government, state, tribal and local governments, and nongovernmental entities. Those recommendations would seek to improve the ability of all levels of government and the private sector to prevent, respond to and prepare for future public health emergencies.
The National Coronavirus Commission Act of 2021 has been endorsed by high-ranking officials and experts from both Republican and Democratic administrations, including former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretaries Jeh Johnson, Michael Chertoff and Tom Ridge and former Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke. The bill is cosponsored by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the respective chairs of the Senate Finance and Banking Committees that have oversight of national health and economic policy.
Click HERE to read the full text of the bill.