WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A group of U.S. House of Representatives Democrats set out plans on Wednesday for a task force to investigate the country’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, similar to the “9/11 Commission” that reviewed the Sept. 11 attacks.
Representative Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he would introduce in the coming days legislation to create a 25-member panel modeled on the one that recommended changes in counter-terrorism strategy after the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
The bill, co-sponsored by more than a dozen other House Democrats, comes as the country’s coronavirus toll rises and debate over how President Donald Trump’s administration has handled it becomes increasingly political.
“Americans will need answers on how our government can work better to prevent a similar crisis from happening again,” Thompson said in a statement.
The 25 members of the proposed commission would be selected by the Democratic chairs and Republican ranking members of 12 House committees. It would publish a public report with findings and recommendations no later than 18 months after its first meeting.
By Wednesday, confirmed U.S. coronavirus cases had surged to 187,000, with nearly 3,900 deaths from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs amid widespread stay-at-home orders designed to stem spreading of the virus that have forced businesses to close their doors.
As the U.S. government raced to build makeshift hospitals for major cities, Russia on Wednesday was sending a planeload of medical equipment to help deal with the pandemic, a public relations coup for Moscow.
Trump has bashed Democrats as he has discussed the crisis, including calling House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a “sick puppy” in an interview on Monday. He did not invite Pelosi or other congressional Democrats to a signing ceremony at the White House on Friday for a $2.3 trillion coronavirus financial relief bill, although Republicans attended.
Pelosi, in turn, has likened the Republican president’s behavior amid the crisis to the ancient legend of Roman Emperor Nero. She said in an interview on Sunday: “As the president fiddles, people are dying.”
Other Democrats have also suggested creation of a coronavirus commission, including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff in a Washington Post interview on Tuesday.
Reporting by Leslie Adler