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April 03, 2020

Schiff Calls for 9/11-Style Commission to Examine Coronavirus Response and Begins Circulating Draft Bill

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, circulated a discussion draft of legislation to establish a bipartisan commission to provide a full accounting of the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The commission will examine 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. Schiff’s legislation is modeled after, and closely mirrors, legislation enacted in 2002 to stand up the 9/11 Commission in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the United States. The draft legislation is being circulated to former commissioners from the 9/11 Commission, Members of Congress, Senators, and outside experts to receive feedback and ideas.

The establishment of such a commission for an after action report does not mean that Congress should refrain from conducting vigorous oversight of the Administration’s response in the meantime. 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 in funds that Congress has appropriated towards the effort already. The 9/11-type commission contemplated in this bill would not begin its work until the crisis is over, and complement the work undertaken by the select committee.

“After Pearl Harbor, September 11, 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,” said Chairman Schiff. “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. In designing such a commission, I believe that the 9/11 Commission provides an established and proven model, one which Congress should adapt to the purposes of the Coronavirus.”

As drafted, Schiff’s proposal would establish a Commission on the Coronavirus Pandemic in the United States. The 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, 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;
  • 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;
  • And would not be established until February 2021, hopefully after the pandemic has been overcome and after the presidential election.

Chairman Schiff will continue soliciting feedback, ideas, and changes with the intention of introducing the final legislation in the coming weeks. 

Click here to read the draft legislation.