McCarthy, Granger, Walden unveil comprehensive pandemic response, preparedness bill

Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives last week unveiled sweeping legislation that would increase the federal commitment to defeating the virus that causes COVID-19 and prepare for future pandemics.

“We are miles ahead of where we were in March and where many other nations are today,” said House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). “We didn’t ask for the virus, we didn’t invite it, we didn’t choose it, but we will defeat it. We are making progress.”

Rep. McCarthy on Oct. 30 signed on as the lead original cosponsor of the Commitment to Defeat the Virus and Keep America Healthy Act, H.R. 14, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC) and cosponsored by U.S. Reps. Greg Walden (R-OR), Kay Granger (R-TX), and Kevin Brady (R-TX). 

“This legislation will further unleash American innovation while also fixing broken aspects in the delivery of our health care,” Rep. McCarthy said on Friday.

If enacted, H.R. 14 would provide $47 billion in funding to increase testing and contact tracing; provide resources to develop and distribute vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics; and to modernize and amass supplies to fill the Strategic National Stockpile, among numerous other provisions outlined in a 16-page bill summary provided by the lawmakers.

“This bill demonstrates that not only do House Republicans believe we need to continue combating this pandemic, we know we must be prepared to meet and defeat future outbreaks,” said Rep. Granger, ranking member of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee. “The lessons we are learning now will be the key to preventing future pandemics that would cripple our country and economy.” 

H.R. 14 also includes provisions from more than 50 bipartisan U.S. House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee bills, including those to ensure Americans, especially senior citizens, have access to mental health or telehealth services; strengthen the domestic healthcare supply chains; improve public health infrastructure; address COVID-19 health disparities; and bolster efforts to fight the opioid epidemic and substance abuse disorder crises, according to Rep. Walden, ranking member of the E&C Committee.

“Innovation paired with strategic deployment of resources are critical to helping us defeat COVID-19,” Rep. Walden said. “This bill contains strong, bipartisan, and — most importantly — realistic measures we could pass today to help improve long-term preparedness, as well as assist with ongoing efforts to ramp up testing capacity and prepare for vaccine distribution.”

Among other provisions, H.R. 14 also would improve pandemic preparedness and response by clarifying that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary would take the lead during all federal public health and medical responses to emergencies and disasters declared by the president, according to the bill summary.

“House Democrats should join us in reinforcing the Trump administration’s successes in responding to the coronavirus,” Rep. McCarthy said. “We must do everything we can to defeat this virus and restore the American way of life.”