WASHINGTON—U.S. Representatives Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., and John Katko, R-N.Y., introduced legislation today to create a bipartisan commission to assess the United States’ preparation for and response to pandemics. The National Commission on COVID-19 Act is modeled on the 2002 law establishing the 9/11 Commission, which was enacted in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. The 10 members of the COVID-19 Commission, split equally between Democrats and Republicans, would examine the country’s preparation for and response to the COVID-19 pandemic and recommend concrete steps the U.S. should take to ensure a stronger, more effective government response to future pandemics. Murphy, who helped lead the Department of Defense’s response to the avian flu outbreak while working at the Pentagon during the President George W. Bush administration, announced she would file this bill back on March 21, 2020.
Because the COVID-19 crisis is still ongoing, the Commission would not begin its work until early 2021 and would produce a report by March 2022.
“Right now, we must all be laser-focused on the immediate public health and economic threats posed by COVID-19. But we do need a bipartisan, comprehensive review of our response when we emerge from this crisis. What did we learn? What did we do wrong? What did we do right? These are critical questions that must be answered,” said Murphy. “When I helped lead the Defense Department’s response to the avian flu in 2005, we recognized the importance of preparedness, public education, and coordination. This is not a time to point fingers or assign blame. Our goal is to make our country more resilient in times of crisis by assessing our nation’s pandemic response and recommending concrete policy changes that will better prepare all Americans for the next global pandemic.”
“Faced with the most significant public health crisis of our lifetime, once the pandemic has ended, Congress has a solemn duty to undergo a comprehensive and bipartisan fact-finding mission that explores our nation’s preparation for and response to the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why, alongside Rep. Murphy, I am introducing the bipartisan National Commission on COVID-19 Act,” said Katko. “Modeled after the 2002 law which established the 9/11 Commission, this legislation will establish a bipartisan commission on U.S. pandemic preparedness and response. Comprised of experts in medicine, public administration, and emergency management, this commission will study the COVID-19 pandemic and recommend concrete steps the American public and private sector can take to prevent, respond to, and mitigate the harmful impact of future public health threats. In the coming days, I will continue working with members on both sides of the aisle to help our country recover from this crisis.”
Under the Murphy-Katko bill, the COVID-19 Commission would:
- Examine how COVID-19 emerged and spread in the United States;
- Evaluate the United States’ preparedness for and response to the pandemic; and
- Issue a report providing Congress, the President, and the American people with a full accounting of what occurred and recommending concrete steps the U.S. public and private sector can take to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and mitigate the harmful impact of future pandemics.
Like the members of the 9/11 Commission, the members of the COVID-19 Commission would be equally balanced between Democrats and Republicans, appointed by the President and congressional leaders of both chambers and parties. They would have deep experience and expertise in fields like public health, medicine, emergency management and response, and public administration.
The Murphy-Katko bill would direct the Commission to analyze and make recommendations on topics like testing, treatments, and vaccines; personal protective equipment for health workers and other first responders; medical devices, equipment, drugs, and supply chains; social distancing practices, stay-at-home directives, school and business closures, and other mitigation measures ordered by government or adopted voluntarily; and the preparedness and capacity of the U.S. health care system, among other subjects.
Members of the Commission would be appointed in late January or early February 2021, would begin their work by March 2021, and would produce their final report by March 2022.
For a more detailed summary of the bill, click here. The full text can be found here.