Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand applauded the passage out of committee of her provision to create a 9-11-style commission to investigate the COVID-19 outbreak and identify lessons learned regarding U.S. preparedness, response and recovery to improve our nation’s ability to respond to future outbreaks. The bill was incorporated into the Prepare for and Respond to Existing Viruses, Emerging New Threats, and Pandemics (PREVENT Pandemics) Act, which passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee in a bipartisan 20-2 vote. Gillibrand introduced the bipartisan legislation in late 2021, alongside Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Roger Marshall (R-KS), and Joni Ernst (R-IA).
“Just as we established an independent commission in the aftermath of 9-11, this COVID-19 commission is the best way to strengthen our nation’s emergency response preparedness and build resiliency against any future pandemic or public health crisis,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I am grateful for Senator Marshall’s tireless work to include this important legislation in the bipartisan PREVENT Pandemics Act, and I look forward to working with our colleagues, Senators Feinstein and Ernst, to shepherd this critical bill to final passage. The American people deserve a thorough examination of the origins of this pandemic and our response in order to protect and equip the United States in the event of another devastating emergency.”
Gillibrand’s bipartisan provision would establish a 9-11-style “National Task Force on the Response of the United States to the COVID-19 Pandemic” to examine the initial emergence of SARS-CoV-2 and to examine and assess the United States’ preparedness for and response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Task Force would identify gaps and make recommendations to Congress, and would be required to submit a report to the president and to Congress. The Task Force would be composed of membership appointed by bipartisan congressional and committee leadership. The Task Force would have authority to hold hearings and to issue and enforce subpoenas.
Specifically, the Task Force would:
- Examine, assess, and report upon the United States’ preparedness for, and response to, the COVID–19 pandemic, including
- the initial and ongoing federal, state, and local responses to COVID-19,
- the impact of the pandemic on public health and health care systems,
- and the initial outbreak in Wuhan, China, including efforts to determine the potential causes for the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and federal actions to mitigate its spread internationally
- Build upon existing or ongoing evaluations and avoid unnecessary duplication by reviewing the findings, conclusions, and recommendations of other appropriate task forces, committees, commissions, or entities established by other public or nonprofit private entities related to the United States’ preparedness for, and response to, the COVID–19 pandemic
- Identify gaps in public health preparedness and medical response policies, processes, and activities, including disparities in COVID–19 infection and mortality rates among people of color, older adults, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable or at-risk groups, and how such gaps impacted the ability of the United States to respond to the COVID–19 pandemic; and
- Submit a report to the president and to Congress on its findings, conclusions, and recommendations to improve the United States’ preparedness for, and response to, future public health emergencies, including a public health emergency resulting from an emerging infectious disease. The final report would be due not later than 18 months after the date on which the last member of the Task Force is appointed.
The Task Force would be composed of 12 members with subject matter expertise, of whom—
- 1 member shall be appointed by the majority leader of the Senate;
- 1 member shall be appointed by the minority leader of the Senate;
- 2 members shall be appointed by the chair of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions of the Senate;
- 2 members shall be appointed by the ranking member of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions of the Senate;
- 1 member shall be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives;
- 1 member shall be appointed by the minority leader of the House of Representatives;
- 2 members shall be appointed by the chair of the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the House of Representatives; and
- 2 members shall be appointed by the ranking member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the House of Representatives.