Problem Solvers Caucus Backs Bill To Examine U.S. Response To Coronavirus Crisis
WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of House lawmakers endorsed a bill on Monday to create a new congressional task force to scrutinize the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Made in America Emergency Preparedness Act, introduced in early April by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa. and Anthony Brindisi, D-N.Y., would allow the creation of a national commission on United States Preparedness for National Emergencies.
The measure was approved by a majority of the members of the Problem Solvers Caucus, which is equally divided between Democrats and Republicans.
The new task force, modeled on the 9/11 Commission, would make recommendations to the president on how to mitigate future health disasters, with its first report due a year and a half after the bill is enacted.
One of the proposed commission’s central functions is to identify important medical supplies for government stockpiling and to pinpoint capacity issues at hospitals and other medical facilities.
Throughout the pandemic, the U.S. government has been forced to import millions of masks and other medical supplies from countries like China to address a severe shortage in personal protective equipment for health workers.
Rep. Brindisi said the bill would help ensure that the U.S. doesn’t need to rely on China for critical medical goods in future health crises. “Our legislation will save lives, keep Americans safe, strengthen our manufacturing sector, and create good-paying jobs,” he said. “COVID-19 exposed glaring holes in our supply chain and I am honored that the Problem Solvers Caucus is endorsing our plan to fix them.”
The commission would also look into ways individual states can better prepare for a crisis. Under the proposed law, states could lose their federal funds for emergency preparation if they fail to implement commission guidelines by 2025.
As part of their investigative duties, lawmakers would have the power to subpoena documents and call up witnesses to testify before Congress.
“It is only fair that we carefully review this current situation and take steps to fully understand how we can work better going forward,” said Problem Solvers Caucus Co-Chair, Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y.. “This legislation can help ensure our nation is stronger and more prepared for the next emergency.”
The coronavirus pandemic has now killed more than 55,000 Americans with nearly one million cases reported across the nation, according to statistics from the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention.
The chair of the 10-member commission would be appointed by the president and its remaining members by congressional leaders of the Democratic and Republicans parties. No more than five members would be from the same party.
The bill has been referred to several House committees that include Transportation and Infrastructure, Ways and Means, Oversight and Reform, Homeland Security, Energy and Commerce, and Armed Services.
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