Bipartisan bill would study U.S. response to crises like COVID-19
After September 11, the report of the 9/11 Commission helped to define the failures and successes of America's preparedness for, and response to, a large-scale terror attack.
U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J. 5th District, is now among a bipartisan group of legislators pushing for a similar evaluation to be made about the nation's handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Gottheimer voluntarily quarantined in March after being exposed to someone who had tested positive for COVID-19, but the congressman himself tested negative and remains healthy.
"To think through how we prepared for, God forbid, if we have another crisis like this, and I hope we never do, but what do we need, what steps should we be thinking through to make sure we are ready for that?" he said.
To help identify those steps, the Made in America Emergency Preparedness Act would create another national commission, this one focusing on the country's emergency preparedness. Its findings would be reported to Congress and the president.
Gottheimer said the current crisis should be looked at in three pieces: health and economic concerns in the immediate term, preparations to eventually reopen the economy and get back to work, and a longer-term concentration on preparedness that his legislation seeks to address.
The "Made in America" portion of the title refers to Gottheimer and his co-sponsors' wish to have more personal protective equipment originate in the United States, including incentivizing businesses and manufacturers which incur increased costs in expanding their medical or pharmaceutical capabilities.
"We need to make sure that from a supply chain perspective, that we are more made in the USA on the manufacturing side," he said. "We really have to fill some of these gaps so that our stockpile has what we need and we can be more self-sufficient on the domestic front, if somehow this were to ever happen again."
Whatever the commission were to find, anything suggested in its guidance would have to be implemented by the year 2025, or states that fail to comply would risk losing out on federal funding.
"Getting the commission done, getting all the recommendations done, and then of course there will be a series of requirements to be prepared, we want all those requirements, at the latest, to be in place in 2025 — obviously, many that will be in place before then," Gottheimer said.