WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, are pressing top federal agencies for information, including documents, communications and interviews, related to the federal government’s Coronavirus pandemic preparedness and response. This is the first bipartisan effort by the committee leaders to examine the federal government’s planning, coordination and execution of prevention and response efforts to COVID-19, and follows a similar request Peters made last year. As one of the deadliest public health threats in nearly a century, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken the lives of more than 525,000 Americans, and cost millions more their jobs, homes and livelihoods.
“More than a half million Americans have died from COVID-19 since the first cases were detected in the United States. In addition, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found that “[a]s of December 2020, there were more than 10.7 million unemployed individuals, compared to nearly 5.8 million individuals at the beginning of the calendar year,” and further warned the “pandemic will likely remain a significant obstacle to more robust economic activity,” wrote the Senators.
The Senators continued: “These deaths are unacceptable. The economic fallout must also be remedied. As such, we must examine and understand the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and any needed reforms to combat this and future pandemics.”
As leaders of the Senate’s primary oversight committee, Peters and Portman are seeking detailed information from the White House, National Archives and Records Administration, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Defense, State Department and the Office of Management and Budget to analyze challenges and flaws in the federal pandemic preparedness and response efforts. The Senators wrote to the National Archives in order to gain access to documents and information related to the previous Administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The committee will examine critical steps during the federal government’s initial pandemic response in the U.S. and identify reforms to strengthen pandemic preparedness and response to prevent future pandemics from significantly affecting our nation’s health, safety and economic security. Peters and Portman will also assess needed actions to help strengthen the current pandemic response – including ensuring widely available COVID-19 vaccines for every American.
Peters and Portman’s letters are available via the following links.