Sending Office: Honorable Adam B. Schiff
After Pearl Harbor, September 11th, and many 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.
Though we are still in the early days of the Coronavirus crisis, there is no doubt that such a comprehensive and authoritative review will be required. This is not an exercise in casting blame or scoring political points, but something that the American
people should rightly expect from their government as an exercise in accountability.
The establishment of such a commission for an after action report also does not mean that Congress should refrain from conducting vigorous oversight of the Administration’s response in the meantime. Far from it. Speaker Pelosi announced yesterday that she
will form a Select Committee in the House, chaired by Congressman Clyburn, to oversee the ongoing response to the Coronavirus and the use of the over two trillion dollars in funds that Congress has appropriated towards the effort already. The commission I
am proposing would not begin its work until the crisis is over, and complement the work undertaken by the select committee.
In designing such a commission, I believe the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, also known as the 9/11 Commission, provides an established and proven model, one which Congress should adapt to the purposes of the Coronavirus.
I have put together legislation that I am circulating as a discussion draft among former commissioners from the 9/11 Commission, Members of Congress, and outside experts to receive feedback and ideas. I would welcome your feedback as well in that process.
I know that other Members have or are considering introducing similar legislation to create a commission, and I look forward to reviewing their ideas as well. It is my hope that we can take up such legislation on a bipartisan basis, either as a stand-alone
measure or for inclusion in a future vehicle like an additional relief package.
As drafted, my proposal would establish a Commission on the Coronavirus Pandemic in the United States. The Commission would:
- Be composed of ten members, appointed in an identical manner as the 9/11commissioners 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, including subpoena power to compel cooperation by relevant witnesses;
- Make specific recommendations to Congress and the Executive Branch on how to improve our preparedness for pandemic disease; and
- Have adequate staffing and resources to be able to complete the monumental task at hand expeditiously so we can be prepared for the next epidemic or pandemic to hit the nation.
Under the discussion draft, the Commission would not be established until February 2021, after the presidential election. This would be a meticulous and comprehensive effort, in following the model of the 9/11 Commission. With the White House estimating
that more than 100,000 Americans may die as a result of the virus, we owe it to all of those who will suffer from this terrible disease and their families to provide a complete accounting of what happened. I know that all of you are committed to vigorously
discharging our oversight responsibilities as we seek to stop the spread of this virus and mitigate the economic damage for millions of Americans.
To view the draft text, please click
here. If you are interested in being an original co-sponsor of this legislation, or have any questions, comments or suggestions, please reach out to Joe Jankiewicz (Joe.Jankiewicz@mail.house.gov) in my
office. Thank you for your leadership in these trying times.
e-Dear Colleague version 2.0