01.25.22

HELP Ranking Member Burr: Discussion Draft of Bipartisan Pandemic Response Bill “Starts the Conversation”

Burr: “…One of the biggest challenges we face is addressing the systemic and cultural failures of the CDC under two Administrations. The American people have stopped listening to the CDC because of their confusing and conflicting guidance. Justifiably so.”

Today, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released a discussion draft of bipartisan legislation to improve our nation’s pandemic preparedness and response. The bill, titled the Prepare for and Respond to Existing Viruses, Emerging New Threats, and Pandemics Act (PREVENT Pandemics Act), includes input from bipartisan Committee members and was co-authored with Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA).

The discussion draft is also informed by a series of policy briefs released by Senator Burr throughout 2021 examining the federal government’s pandemic response and failures, in particular the missteps and miscommunications made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“COVID-19 has forced us to have hard conversations on the state of our nation’s pandemic and public health preparedness and response capabilities,” Senator Burr said in a statement. “As the response to COVID-19 continues to evolve, we must reflect on the lessons learned from the last two years and determine where we were successful, where we failed, and what we did not anticipate so we are better prepared for the next threat we face. This discussion draft starts that conversation.

“While our federal response has been successful in the fastest development and distribution of safe and effective vaccines and treatments against an emerging infectious disease, one of the biggest challenges we face is addressing the systemic and cultural failures of the CDC under two Administrations. The American people have stopped listening to the CDC because of their confusing and conflicting guidance. Justifiably so.

“The CDC reforms in this draft are just the beginning of what is needed. Demanding accountability and transparency from the CDC is a critical first step to ensuring that the agency provides clear and timely recommendations that Americans find trustworthy. The draft also strengthens our countermeasure enterprise through advancing critical research in this field and in FDA’s development and review of these tests, treatments, and vaccines to improve readiness for future threats and bolstering the use of cutting-edge adaptable platform technologies and advanced manufacturing approaches.

“I look forward to working with our colleagues, current and former state and local public health experts, and others who have ideas on how to rebuild the CDC and improve other parts of our public health preparedness and pandemic response system. For 20 years, Congress’ work on public health preparedness and response has been bipartisan, forward looking, and critical to the safety of the American people, so I’m glad Chair Murray and I have reached this starting point. I am optimistic that the legislative process will further improve the bill and build broad support for these necessary reforms.”

The first policy brief issued by Senator Burr, titled “Modernizing CDC: Ensuring a Strategic Approach and Improving Accountability,” was released in May 2021. The second paper, titled “Reforming and Strengthening ASPR: Ensuring Specialized Capabilities, Sufficient Capacity, and Specific Authorities to Meet the 21st Century Public Health Security Threats,” was released in June 2021.  The third paper, titled “Preparing for Future Health Threats: Improving and Sustaining Foundational Public Health Capabilities in Response to COVID-19,” was released in July 2021, and the fourth paper titled “Strengthening FDA’s Regulatory Readiness: Implementing Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic,” was released in September 2021. The most recent installment, titled “Strengthening the Safety and Security of Laboratories,” was released in November 5, 2021.

You can read a section-by-section of the bill here.

You can read the legislative text for the discussion draft here.

You can find Ranking Member Burr’s and Chair Murray’s joint release here.