House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) introduced legislation on Friday that would establish a coronavirus bipartisan commission to review and provide a full account of the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“After Pearl Harbor, September 11, and other momentous events in American history, independent, bipartisan commissions have been established to provide a complete accounting of what happened, what we did right and wrong, and what we can do to better protect the country in the future,” Schiff said in a statement. “And though we are still early in this crisis, over sixteen thousand Americans have died so far. It is clear that a comprehensive and authoritative review will be required, not as a political exercise to cast blame, but to learn from our mistakes to prevent history from tragically repeating itself.”
Though we are still in the midst of the Coronavirus crisis, over 16,000 Americans have died.
It’s clear we’ll need a bipartisan commission to ensure we’re better prepared for the next pandemic.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) April 10, 2020
Schiff, who led the House impeachment process against President Trump said the bipartisan commission would be comprised of 10 members — 5 Democrats and 5 Republicans and the members would be appointed by congressional leaders of both parties from the House and Senate, as well as the President taking part in appointing such members. No current government officials would be eligible to serve on the commission.
The commission would be ordered to “make a full and complete assessment and accounting of the preparedness of the federal government, state governments, local governments, and the private sector for the outbreak and spread of COVID–19 in the United States.”
The commission would hold public hearings and events, along with making specific recommendations to Congress and the Executive Branch to “obtain information and to educate the public” and “improve our preparedness” for future pandemics. It will also have subpoena power to “compel cooperation by relevant witnesses and materials from the federal government.”
Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) are also planning to introduce companion legislation in the Senate.
“The coronavirus showed just how unprepared and slow we were to respond to a major outbreak. And that lack of readiness endangered lives,” Feinstein said. “We weren’t able to ramp up testing, we didn’t have enough safety equipment for doctors and nurses and we lacked any kind of consistent federal guidelines for states and cities. We know this won’t be the last outbreak, so a 9/11 Commission-style panel is necessary to fix these mistakes going forward and apply the lessons from this pandemic to future crises.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced last week that she was creating a special House committee led by House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) to oversee the Trump administration handling of the historic $2 trillion relief package and its ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The committee will be empowered to examine all aspects of the federal response to coronavirus and to assure that the taxpayers’ dollars are being wisely and efficiently spent to save lives, deliver relief, and benefit our economy,” Pelosi said last week. “And we would hope that there would be cooperation because this is not a kind of an investigation of the administration it’s about the whole response.”
According to the bill, the commission would not be formally established until February 2021, in the hopes the pandemic has been overcome and after the presidential election.