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Blumenthal Announces Bicameral Legislation to Establish Bipartisan Coronavirus Commission

[HARTFORD, CT] – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) joined U.S. Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) and U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CT), Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) in announcing legislation that would establish a bipartisan commission to provide a full accounting of the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, just as similar commissions have been established after other great national tragedies.

The Coronavirus Commission will conduct a rigorous and comprehensive review of U.S. government preparedness in advance of this pandemic, the Federal government’s response to it, and provide recommendations to improve our ability to respond to and recover from future outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics. This legislation is modeled after, and closely mirrors, legislation enacted in 2002 to create the 9/11 Commission in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the United States. As with the 9/11 Commission, the Coronavirus Commission will also examine state and local governments' preparedness and response.

“Once we overcome this heartbreaking crisis, the American people deserve to understand how and why we were so unprepared. Our future depends on it. A nonpartisan, independent investigation – much like what was conducted after 9/11 – is absolutely necessary to understand the mistakes that were made and develop the lessons learned,” Blumenthal said.

The Coronavirus Commission would:

  • Be composed of ten members, with the same partisan balance as the 9/11 commissioners and prohibited from being current federal officials, with a variety of backgrounds in relevant fields, including public health, epidemiology, emergency preparedness, armed services, and intelligence;
  • Provide a full accounting to the President, Congress, and the American people of the facts and circumstances related to the outbreak in the United States, including our preparedness, the intelligence and information we had available before the virus reached the United States, and how federal, state, and local governments, as well as the private sector, responded to the crisis;
  • Hold hearings and public events to obtain information and to educate the public;
  • Possess subpoena power to compel cooperation by relevant witnesses and materials from the federal government, as well as state and local governments;
  • Make specific recommendations to Congress and the Executive Branch to improve our preparedness for pandemic disease;
  • Have adequate staffing and resources to be able to complete expeditiously the monumental task at hand so we can be prepared for the next epidemic or pandemic to hit the nation; and
  • Would not be established until February 2021, hopefully after the pandemic has been overcome and after the presidential election.

Numerous experts, including several former members of the 9/11 Commission, provided feedback on the legislation. As a result, the bill contains a number of improvements including a presumption in favor of public hearings, mechanisms to encourage in person meetings among the commissioners, and several other additions that build on the 9/11 commission structure.

The legislation can be found here.

The legislation being introduced today is co-sponsored in the House by U.S. Representatives Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr. (D-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), David Trone (D-MD), and Denny Heck (D-WA).