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Democrats introduce bill to set up commission to review coronavirus response

Democrats introduce bill to set up commission to review coronavirus response
© Greg Nash

Democratic lawmakers on the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday introduced legislation that would create an independent commission tasked with producing a “full and complete accounting of the nation’s preparedness and response” to the coronavirus. 

Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonHouse Democrats subpoena private prison operator in forced hysterectomy case Trump relents as GSA informs Biden transition to begin Hillicon Valley: Leadership changes at top cyber agency raise national security concerns | Snapchat launches in-app video platform 'Spotlight' | Uber, Lyft awarded federal transportation contract MORE (D-Miss.) said the commission will be similar to the commission put in place to review the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. 

“While we don’t yet know the full impact the coronavirus will have on the nation, already more Americans have been killed by the virus than died in the September 11, 2001 attacks,” Thompson said in a statement. 

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The commission will consist of 25 members appointed by a bipartisan group of House lawmakers. The bill says that 18 months after the initial meeting of the commission, a public report detailing recommendations for the development of a national plan to address public health and the economic and social impacts of future pandemics will be published.

In the statement, Thompson echoed rhetoric that New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoMayor of Denver apologizes for holiday travel after advising residents to stay put Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Denver mayor flies to Mississippi for Thanksgiving after advising against travel MORE (D) used hours earlier, calling the pandemic a “transformative experience” that should inform future contingency plans. 

“It is clear that we, as a nation, are at another inflection point,” Thompson said. “Americans today will again demand a full accounting of how prepared we were and how we responded to this global public health emergency.  Americans will need answers on how our government can work better to prevent a similar crisis from happening again.”

Hours before lawmakers unveiled the legislation, Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Trump pardons Flynn | Lawmakers lash out at decision | Pentagon nixes Thanksgiving dining hall meals due to COVID-19 Democratic impeachment leaders blast Trump's pardon of Flynn Trump pardons Michael Flynn MORE (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, announced that he was drafting legislation that had the same goal as Thompson’s bill. 

"After Pearl Harbor and 9/11, we looked at what went wrong to learn from our mistakes,” Schiff said in a tweet. “Once we've recovered, we need a nonpartisan commission to review our response and how we can better prepare for the next pandemic.”

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Over the past month, the administration has come under scrutiny for what critics call a late response to the virus. Critics have also pointed out that in 2018 the White House disbanded the National Security Council unit focused on pandemic preparedness.