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U.S. Senator Bob Menendez. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Menendez wants non-partisan commission to investigate nation’s pandemic response

Malinowski will introduce House companion bill

By Nikita Biryukov, September 23 2020 11:38 am

U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez (D-North Bergen) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) want to create a non-partisan commission to investigate the country’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.

“We can never put our country, our communities and our families through this again,” Menendez said. “We need to understand what we did right, what we did wrong and what we can do better to strengthen our public health systems and supply chains, protect communities and vulnerable populations, improve coordination across all levels of government and the private sector, and advance scientific research so our nation is more prepared and able to respond to future public health threats.”

The 10-member panel would be modeled after the 9/11 Commission, with each party appointing half its ranks.

If the bill passes, the National Coronavirus Commission would have subpoena power and wide latitude to explore the nation’s pandemic response, including at the federal and state levels.

Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) are set to introduce a companion bill in the House. Malinowski faces a competitive challenge from State Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Westfield).

Kean’s father, former Gov. Tom Kean Sr., chaired the 9/11 Commission.

The bill has already won bipartisan backing from former Department of Homeland Security Secretaries Jeh Johnson, who served under President Barack Obama, and Michael Chertoff, who headed the agency under President George W. Bush.

“The COVID-19 pandemic presents unprecedented challenges to our nation’s security and our ability to effectively respond to future public health threats,” Chertoff said. “And while we continue to grapple with this crisis and economic fallout, we must recognize that, just as we did after the September 11th terror attacks, our government must look towards a thorough, nonpartisan investigation to identify areas in which we can improve our nation’s preparedness and response to future pandemics.”

It’s also backed by former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, the American Health Care Association and The Project on Government Oversight, among others.

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