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Senate HELP Committee Passes Burr-Murray PREVENT Pandemics Act in Overwhelming Bipartisan Vote

Committee votes 20-2 to advance legislation to strengthen the nation’s preparedness and response framework amid COVID-19 pandemic

Today, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) and Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) released the following statements on the Committee’s 20-2 vote to advance the Prepare for and Respond to Existing Viruses, Emerging New Threats, and Pandemics Act (PREVENT Pandemics Act). The legislation strengthens the nation’s public health and medical preparedness and response systems and is the result of bipartisan efforts Senators Burr and Murray kicked off nearly a year ago to examine what has worked, and what has not, during the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill Senators Burr and Murray passed in the Committee incorporates ideas from 35 different bills and 41 of their Senate colleagues, including several added during mark-up as amendments, the ARPA-H Act they introduced last week, and feedback on a discussion draft the Senators released earlier this year.

“As we continue to evaluate the lessons learned from the pandemic, the central issue facing us today is how we can better anticipate the next threat we will face, and innovate quickly enough to rise to the challenge,” said Senator Burr. “This bipartisan legislation represents a milestone in our efforts to fill current gaps and build on the successes in our pandemic response. The PREVENT Pandemics Act includes critical and necessary reforms to improve CDC accountability and transparency to restore the public’s trust in the agency after its repeated failure to effectively communicate its decision-making to the American people. With this bill, Congress can help ensure America has better tools, better resources, and stronger leadership for the next threat we will inevitably face. I’m proud of the Committee’s diligent and bipartisan work. I look forward to the full Senate’s consideration to ensure our preparedness and response framework remains forward-looking for years to come.”

“Time after time we have seen how our response to this pandemic could have, and should have, been better—and the bipartisan legislation we advanced today will ensure we do respond better in the future,” said Senator Murray. “After all our families have been through, we owe it to everyone who has worked so hard to get us through this pandemic to take action so we are never in this situation again. I’m glad we are coming together and showing Americans there is bipartisan agreement we must learn from this crisis. I’m going to continue working with Senator Burr and my colleagues to get the PREVENT Pandemics Act passed into law, strengthen our public health and preparedness systems, and protect families in Washington state and across the country from pandemics like this one.”

The PREVENT Pandemics Act includes steps to:

  • Improve strategy and coordination among our public health preparedness agencies;
  • Strengthen supply chain and government stockpiles of medical products, such as masks, drugs, vaccines, and tests;
  • Ensure the CDC’s accountability and leadership by requiring a Senate-confirmed CDC Director and an agency-wide strategic plan;
  • Improve our capabilities to detect and monitor emerging infectious disease and other threats, including updates to public health data to quickly provide comprehensive, actionable insight during public health emergencies;
  • Enhance the development and review of tests, treatments, and vaccines, and mitigate critical shortages of medical products;
  • Address disparities which make public health emergencies harder on at-risk populations and communities;
  • Improve public health communication and address misinformation
  • Revitalize the public and community health workforce;
  • Accelerate biomedical research to develop medical countermeasures for pandemic threats, and enhance research on the long-term effects of COVID-19 and faster test development;
  • Ensure continued access to mental health and substance use disorder services during public health emergency responses; and,
  • Establish an independent task force to conduct a comprehensive review of the COVID-19 response.

The legislative text of the PREVENT Pandemics Act the Senators introduced last week can be found here.

The managers’ amendment the Committee passed is available here.

The text of the amendments the Committee passed are available below.

Senator Burr delivered opening remarks at today’s executive session, which can be found here.