WASHINGTON (CBS SF) — Rep. Adam Schiff and Senators Diane Feinstein and Kamala Harris introduced a plan to establish a bipartisan commission to thoroughly examine the U.S. government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The commission would conduct a “rigorous and comprehensive review” of how the country, in Congress and elsewhere, handled the pandemic and will make recommendations on how it can improve, Schiff’s office said.
Schiff (D-CA) introduced the legislation in the House on Friday and Feinstein and Harris (both D-CA) said they plan to introduce companion legislation in the Senate.
The commission will have 10 members with the same partisan balance as the 9/11 commissioners who examined the government’s response after that disaster. The members will have varying backgrounds in relevant fields, such as public health, epidemiology, emergency preparedness, armed services, and intelligence.
The commission will provide to the president, Congress and the American people a full accounting of the facts of the coronavirus outbreak, including data on how federal, state and local governments responded to the crisis.
The commission won’t be established until February of 2021.
“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,” said Representative Schiff. “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.
Feinstein said that the global pandemic showed how “unprepared and slow” the U.S. was to respond to a major outbreak. “And that lack of readiness endangered lives,” said Feinstein. “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.
She said the Commission-style panel, similar to the time immediately after 9/11, was necessary to fix those mistakes going forward.
“Keeping residents safe in dangerous times is a fundamental responsibility of government. Yet the past two months have made clear that the federal government was unprepared to confront the coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis, let alone both at the same time,” said Harris. “I’m proud to help introduce this bill because we must carefully document government’s actions and mistakes in order to correct them when preparing and responding to future crises.