How the coronavirus shook Congress out of complacency

“Why should mask manufacturers have special immunity?” said a Pelosi assistant, explaining her thinking.

In mid-March, as the US economy began to flash red and concerns about a widespread lack of masks increased, Congress sought to pass a second and then a third wave of emergency laws.

A temporary disclaimer for mask manufacturers that included some, but not all, N95 masks was included in the Phase 2 bill negotiated by Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and the Trump administration announced that companies were producing ” tens of millions “would start more masks a month. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had canceled the Senate’s planned break for the week of March 16, made the phase 3 waiver permanent, allowing more types of masks to be used.

“I didn’t see early on that it would be so challenging. I just thought it was a logical way to go ahead,” said Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), Who sponsored a version of Fischer’s bill in-house in 2019 before the corona virus hit the market. “Now businesses are working around the clock to meet a need.”

Almost a month after the initial debate about the provision of masks, Congress is now ready to continue to release mask production. However, there has been a critical deficiency between the beginning of the debate and its resolution. Doctors and nurses in the most sought after areas are forced to reuse masks they have described as a serious health risk, wear bandanas or even make their own.

“Whatever needs to happen to improve the ability of manufacturers in this area to ramp up production has to happen,” said Mark Howell, senior associate director of policy for the American Hospital Association. “And it has to happen now so that we can put things on the conveyor belt into the hands of the providers.”

Limited legislative tools

Democrats reject the idea that they missed the ball against coronavirus and find that several spoke about it during the impeachment process.

“We need all hands on deck to effectively fight infectious diseases like coronavirus,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) continued to tweet Jan 28, “But like so much else, Trump’s approach to protecting us from outbreaks is a mess.”

The government’s briefings were generally not helpful, said Senator Murphy, raising red flags for some lawmakers that Trump was not taking the growing threat seriously. He pointed to a briefing on February 5, in which officials claimed they could manage the response to the outbreak using the available resources.

In mid-February, according to a source in the Democratic Congress, democratic lawmakers even considered preparing an additional expense account alone because they doubted the government’s assurances. Without a special request from the administration for additional emergency funds, their options were limited.

“I’ve never heard of an emergency addition without the administration’s help,” said Murphy.

MP Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) Agreed. “I can’t imagine any other time when Congress would have been so far ahead of a president in times of crisis,” he said.

Democrats also pointed to the gap between the bad warnings from infectious disease specialists like Dr. Nancy Messonier of the CDC, who told Congress at the end of February, said: “It is no longer a question of whether this will happen, but rather a question of when exactly the virus would interfere with American life – and senior Trump officials who consistently claimed the opposite.

“It was so bad for me that there was a separation between what experts told us – the warnings they gave – and the response from the White House,” said Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), A Democrat for the committee for home remedies.

Some who have criticized Congress’s response are ready to release legislators from primary responsibility for the botched response to the coronavirus – and argue that they used the few tools they had after the emergency.

“In my view, Congress was involved early on,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, who testified on February 5 before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The leaders of the congress were also unaware of the far-reaching economic and safety risks posed by emerging infectious diseases. For example, the House Intelligence Committee included a specific pandemic provision in the Intelligence Authorization Act that spanned the years 2018, 2019, and 2020, which required the Director of National Intelligence to report “on the expected geopolitical impact of emerging infectious diseases … and pandemics and their impact on United States national security. “

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