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Senators Murray and Cantwell: “We believe each Committee in the Senate has an important oversight role to play in responding to the COVID-19 emergency”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate health committee, and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, today joined 18 of their Senate Democratic colleagues in sending a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), urging Leader McConnell to make COVID-19 related matters and oversight of all COVID-related legislation enacted by Congress the Senate’s focus. 

“Pursuant to your decision to convene the Senate during the week of May 4th, despite the public health emergency in Washington, D.C., we respectfully urge you to have the Senate focus on COVID-19 related matters and oversight of all COVID-related legislation enacted by Congress,” the senators wrote.

Despite the severity of the COVID-19 crisis, no legislative or committee business related to the COVID-19 public health and economic emergencies has been scheduled. In the letter, the senators’ requested a series of hearings for next week—to be undertaken in the safest possible environment, and subject to uniform standards developed by the Office of Attending Physician—on several matters of importance, including: the nation’s testing capabilities; the implementation of and access to the Paycheck Protection Program; the implementation of and access to the Treasury and Federal Reserve’s Lending Facilities; the best ways to protect the health and safety of the nation’s frontline workers; the implementation of the CARES Act’s Unemployment Insurance provisions; and confirmation of appointees to the bipartisan Congressional Oversight Commission.

The senators continued, “In addition, there are scores of other issues that require oversight and public hearings in the coming days and weeks ahead. We believe each Committee in the Senate has an important oversight role to play in responding to the COVID-19 emergency.”

Senators Murray and Cantwell have made oversight of the Trump Administration’s COVID-19 response a priority, with Senator Murray successfully calling for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General to investigate the lack of testing available during this crisis, and pushing back against President Trump’s attacks on coronavirus response watchdogs.

The senators’ letter to Leader McConnell can be found below:

April 28th, 2020

Dear Leader McConnell:

The Senate is currently scheduled to return to session on May 4th, 2020 to debate non-COVID related nominations.  There is currently no scheduled legislative or committee business related to the COVID-19 public health and economic emergencies.

Pursuant to your decision to convene the Senate during the week of May 4th, despite the public health emergency in Washington, D.C., we respectfully urge you to have the Senate focus on COVID-19 related matters and oversight of all COVID-related legislation enacted by Congress.  With respect to any Committee hearing, we also urge the Senate Leader to take strong actions to ensure the hearings are conducted in the safest environment possible, by requiring the Office of the Attending Physician to develop uniform standards on protecting the public health of Senators, employees, and witnesses for each Committee to follow, and charging the appropriate Senate support agency with assisting committees in implementing the guidance when necessary.  

We believe the Senate should immediately consider next week:

  • A public hearing with Administration officials and industry leaders and experts regarding our testing capabilities and capacity, and implementation of the requirement of zero out of pocket cost testing for all populations.
  • A public hearing regarding the implementation of and access to the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program with the Small Business Administration Administrator Carranza.
  • A public hearing regarding the implementation of and access to the Treasury and Federal Reserve’s Lending Facilities with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Powell.
  • A public hearing regarding the best ways to protect the health and safety of our frontline workers with Administration officials and health and safety advocates.
  • A public hearing regarding the implementation of the CARES Act’s Unemployment Insurance provisions with Labor Secretary Scalia.
  • Confirmation of appointees to the bipartisan Congressional Oversight Commission, including the chairperson.

In addition, there are scores of other issues that require oversight and public hearings in the coming days and weeks ahead. We believe each Committee in the Senate has an important oversight role to play in responding to the COVID-19 emergency. The Ranking Members of the Senate, in consultation with their committee members, will be requesting a series of oversight hearings as a follow-up to this letter.

Sincerely, 

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