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Former Sens. Daschle, Frist: Congress Should Act Now to Prepare for the Next Pandemic

Washington, DC – The following is a statement from former Sen. Tom Daschle, co-founder of the Bipartisan Policy Center, and former Sen. Bill Frist, BPC fellow: 

“This year, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) led strong efforts to push the bipartisan Prepare for and Respond to Existing Viruses, Emerging New Threats, and Pandemics Act (PREVENT Pandemics Act) through their committee. This bipartisan bill included critical policies that would strengthen federal and state preparedness, improve our response capacity through data systems modernization, accelerate research and countermeasure discovery, modernize the supply chain for vital medical products, and enhance the development and combat shortages of medical products.

 “Congress, the Trump and Biden administrations, and the American people rose to meet the COVID-19 crisis by developing vaccines in rapid time under Operation Warp Speed and by investing significantly to address the COVID-driven hardship through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act of 2020 and the American Rescue Plan of 2021. Those efforts demonstrated that America retains the capacity to act in response to a crisis. Now, we need to demonstrate the same capacity to prepare for the next one. That is why we, along with our colleagues on the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Future of Health Task Force, issued recommendations—several of which were included in the bipartisan PREVENT Pandemics Act—to help Congress, the administration, and the nation prepare for the next pandemic. 

 “We called on Congress to create a national board on pandemic preparedness to increase accountability, and on the White House to take a stronger role in directing and coordinating federal efforts. A robust public health infrastructure is critical to preparing for future pandemics and threats, which is why we recommended polices to strengthen the nation’s data infrastructure. COVID strained our public health system, and we can’t afford to let it break.   

“We applaud the bipartisanship demonstrated by Sens. Murray and Burr in crafting this important legislation. By prioritizing preparedness now, Congress will show the world that complacency is not our policy.”  

Daschle, a BPC co-founder, served in the Senate from 1987 to 2005 and as Senate majority leader from 2001 to 2003. Frist, a BPC senior fellow, is a physician and served in the Senate from 1995 to 2007 and as Senate majority leader from 2003 to 2007.