Lawmakers fight for a piece of coronavirus ‘9/11 commission’
The most distinct proposal comes from House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and the panel’s other Democratic members. Their proposal features a 25-member commission picked entirely by the leaders of House and Senate committees. The panel would be required to begin an 18-month investigation within 45 days of the plan’s passage.
Pelosi has voiced support for the concept of an “after-action” review but emphasized last week that she’s more focused on the immediate crisis and would consider the structure of a commission later.
“It has to be bipartisan,” she said at a Thursday press conference. “And, again, anything that affects this many people in our country, their health and affects our economy in such a major way, involves the allocation of so many trillions of dollars, we really do have to subject to an after‑action review, not to point fingers but to make sure that it doesn’t happen again in the manner in which it happened, hopefully not at all.”
Schiff and Thompson told POLITICO they’ve spoken to Pelosi about their plans but declined to characterize her response. They also indicated they’ve had conversations with each other about convening all of the commission sponsors to “harmonize” their plans and agree on a path forward.
Schiff said despite his reputation as a bogeyman to Republicans, he’s confident he can lead a bipartisan push. He noted that even during Trump’s impeachment trial, while Schiff was leading the prosecution on the Senate floor, he helped drive a bipartisan House effort to recognize the Armenian genocide.
“I can’t worry about what the Republicans who view this from a partisan point of view are going to do,” Schiff said, contending that most of his GOP colleagues would “support good policy, notwithstanding the fact that Fox demonizes me.”
“I’m certainly doing whatever I can do to make the structure of this something that can be embraced by both parties,” he added.
Schiff said he’s been conferring with Tim Roemer, a former architect of the 9/11 commission, to structure his proposal. Murphy, on the other hand, cites her experience as a national security official, who joined the Pentagon after the Sept. 11 attacks and focused on strategic planning. Murphy, a leader of the House’s moderate Blue Dog Democrats, has warned her caucus against appearing too partisan in their responses to coronavirus.
“Both parties can share some responsibility for having played a little bit of politics on this issue,” she said.
Thompson said the goal of a commission would be distinct from the multiple layers of oversight that Congress has approved to monitor the ongoing coronavirus response, including the distribution of hundreds of billions of dollars to shore up the economy amid the pandemic.
The recently passed $2 trillion CARES Act included a congressional commission to oversee the Trump administration’s handling of the funds, a special inspector general to review the funding decisions and a committee of federal watchdogs to oversee the entire implementation of the law.
“I think it’s not too soon to start thinking about how can we guarantee the American people that if something like this would happen again, there is a doable plan in place that can be executed,” Thompson said. “I don’t think there’s any question about [whether] this helter-skelter response to this pandemic is orderly, transparent or effective.”
“I just think the interest of the American public would be better served,” Thompson continued, “if we can look back on this pandemic and make America stronger.”
Sarah Ferris contributed reporting to this story.