Senator Joined Colleagues in Introducing 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. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) in introducing the National Coronavirus Commission Act of 2021, bipartisan legislation to 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, and provide recommendations to improve our country’s readiness for future public health crises.
“We must learn from this crisis and do everything we can to be better prepared for the next inevitable threat. And while we can’t prevent everything, there are steps we can take now to bolster our supply chains and reinforce our safety net so that the next time a crisis happens, whether it be a public health crisis, a natural disaster or an economic downturn, we have the right tools to address it,” said Brown. “Establishing this independent commission will help us do that.”
The Commission will have a broad mandate and subpoena power to examine the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, and it will 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
· scientific research
· economic relief policies
· health and economic disparities affecting racial and ethnic minority populations and other communities that have been disproportionately harmed
· State, local, Tribal, and territorial government preparedness and response
The National Coronavirus Commission will 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 will 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.
Likewise, the 9/11 Commission provided a full and complete accounting of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks. Its final report and series of recommendations designed to guard against future attacks were widely regarded as both credible and non-partisan, largely due to the Commission’s independence and bipartisan make-up.
The National Coronavirus Commission Act of 2021 establishes a ten-member independent body comprised of prominent Americans with expertise in government service, public health, commerce, scientific research, public administration, intelligence gathering, national security, and/or foreign affairs. The President and congressional leadership will have 60 days to appoint the Commission members following the enactment of the legislation. The Commission will hold public hearings and issue a publicly available report to the President and Congress within 18 months of its inception, with the possibility of limited extensions if necessary. To ensure independence, the Commission is required to hire an ethics counsel to address potential and actual conflicts of interest by any member.
Congressmen Tom Malinowski (D-NJ-07) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL-25) will introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives, making this bill the only bipartisan, bicameral proposal calling for an independent, non-partisan investigation of America’s response to COVID-19.
The legislation 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. It is also supported by the BPC (Bipartisan Policy Center) Action, American Health Care Association, American Medical Association, American Hospital Association, American Nurses Association, New Jersey Hospital Association, American College of Emergency Physicians, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Council of Asian Pacific Islander Physicians, Third Way, National Restaurant Association, American Hotel & Lodging Association, Small Business Majority, Project on Government Oversight, Leading Age, UnidosUS, The Arc of the United States, Alliance for Aging Research, Alzheimer’s Association, National Low Income Housing Coalition, and the National Housing Law Project.
Text of the bill can be read here.