Moderate Democrats call for 9/11-style panel to probe COVID-19 origins

Moderate Democrats call for 9/11-style panel to probe COVID-19 origins
© Greg Nash

A bloc of moderate House Democrats on Wednesday called for the creation of a bipartisan, 9/11-style commission to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 virus in China and assess the United States’ response to the pandemic that killed more than 600,000 Americans. 

Leaders of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition sent a letter to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries On The Money: Biden issues targeted eviction moratorium | GOP skepticism looms over bipartisan spending deal 'The Squad' celebrates Biden eviction moratorium MORE (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck Schumer'The Squad' celebrates Biden eviction moratorium Overnight Health Care: Florida becomes epicenter of COVID-19 surge | NYC to require vaccination for indoor activities | Biden rebukes GOP governors for barring mask mandates National Organization for Women calls for Cuomo resignation MORE (D-N.Y.) and their GOP counterparts urging them to pass legislation that would establish a national COVID-19 commission.

The origins of the coronavirus are still unknown.

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Many scientists and the World Health Organization suspect the virus was transferred to humans at an animal market in Wuhan, China. But House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyPress: Inmates have taken over the asylum 58 percent say Jan. 6 House committee is biased: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate finalizes .2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill MORE (R-Calif.) and other Republicans believe that the virus escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan, and they’ve accused President BidenJoe BidenFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries FDA aims to give full approval to Pfizer vaccine by Labor Day: report Overnight Defense: Police officer killed in violence outside Pentagon | Biden officials back repeal of Iraq War authorization | NSC pushed to oversee 'Havana Syndrome' response MORE and congressional Democrats of giving cover to China and failing to get to the bottom of the pandemic mystery.

At Biden’s direction, the U.S. intelligence community has been assigned to probe the matter and report back to the president by August. But the Blue Dogs’ letter Wednesday suggests the GOP attacks on Democrats, particularly vulnerable ones with tough reelections in 2022, have been effective. 

“The 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,” the Blue Dog leaders wrote to House and Senate leadership. 

“The purpose of the commission would not be to point fingers or assign blame, but rather to make the United States stronger and more resilient if we face another pandemic.”

The Blue Dogs also took direct aim at Beijing: “Understanding exactly how COVID-19 originated and how its initial spread began is critical to creating an accurate historical account of the pandemic and is vital to helping the United States prepare for future pandemics. The Chinese government will predictably object to this effort to learn the truth. Its objections should be noted and then disregarded."

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Similar to the bipartisan panel Congress created to investigate the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the COVID-19 commission would be comprised of 10 “well-respected individuals, five appointed by Democrats and five by Republicans."

So far, Pelosi has shown little interest in forming a national commission on COVID-19. She did launch a special House committee last year to oversee trillions of dollars in COVID-19 relief aid.       

The letter was signed by the four co-chairs of the Blue Dogs, Reps. Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyLawmakers can't reconcile weakening the SALT cap with progressive goals Select committee member thanks officers who responded Jan. 6: 'You were our last line of defense' House erupts in anger over Jan. 6 and Trump's role MORE (D-Fla.), Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.), Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerLawmakers can't reconcile weakening the SALT cap with progressive goals Democrat unveils bill to allow only House members to serve as Speaker Moderate Democrats call for 9/11-style panel to probe COVID-19 origins MORE (D-Va.) and Ed CaseEdward (Ed) CaseMORE (D-Hawaii), as well as Reps. Kurt SchraderWalter (Kurt) Kurt SchraderModerate Democrats call for 9/11-style panel to probe COVID-19 origins Overnight Health Care: White House signals new COVID-19 strategy as delta variant spreads | McConnell urges vaccinations | Maryland says all COVID-19 deaths last month were among unvaccinated Democrats eye next stage of spending fight MORE (D-Ore.) and Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillDemocrat unveils bill to allow only House members to serve as Speaker Six takeaways: What the FEC reports tell us about the midterm elections Moderate Democrats call for 9/11-style panel to probe COVID-19 origins MORE (D-N.J.). 

The other Blue Dogs who signed the letter were Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), Jim CostaJames (Jim) Manuel CostaModerate Democrats call for 9/11-style panel to probe COVID-19 origins Biden waiving sanctions for Nord Stream 2 pipeline firm: report On The Money: Weekly jobless claims fall to 498K, hitting new post-lockdown low | House to advance appropriations bills in June, July MORE (D-Calif.) and Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerLawmakers can't reconcile weakening the SALT cap with progressive goals Lawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection Six takeaways: What the FEC reports tell us about the midterm elections MORE (D-N.J.), co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus.

The Blue Dogs said legislation co-authored by Murphy and the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoGOP brawls over Trump on eve of first Jan. 6 hearing Senators introduce bipartisan bill to secure critical groups against hackers House erupts in anger over Jan. 6 and Trump's role MORE (N.Y.), could serve as a template for a bill forming the COVID-19 commission.