Warren, Khanna urge top Democrats, Republicans to prep for next pandemic

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) departs after a vote on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 22, 2020.

Joshua Roberts | Reuters

More than 100 Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives, largely progressives, are calling on congressional leaders to take steps to prepare the United States for the next pandemic and mitigate racial disparities in U.S. health care.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., spearheaded a letter sent to the top Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate on Thursday calling on them to “lay the groundwork to prevent and mitigate future pandemics.”

“In addition to passing a robust package to address the current crisis, we must take bold and comprehensive steps now to ensure the nation is better prepared for the next pandemic,” the lawmakers wrote.

The push from the left just a few days before the election between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden provides an indication of the kind of pressure Biden could face to act swiftly if he is swept into power alongside a Democratic Senate.

Some of the details in the letter mirror those in Biden’s own plan, which notes that “even as we respond to this crisis, we must prepare for the next one.”

A Warren aide didn’t say whether Biden’s campaign was in the loop on the letter but noted that the policies it advocated for were consistent with the presidential contender’s plans as well as his ability to implement them.

The five-page letter was sent to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

It called on the leaders to take five steps:

  • Commit billions of dollars in funding to domestic health programs at the state, local, territorial and tribal level and replenish the Strategic National Stockpile.
  • Ensure the White House collaborates with international health groups and boost the government’s funding to international organizations such as the World Health Organization.
  • Create 250,000 jobs responsible for executing “key public health initiatives” such as contact tracing and disease surveillance.
  • Address racial disparities by ensuring “everyone in America has access to high-quality health care” as well as requiring companies developing or producing future pandemic therapeutics or vaccines with federal funding to make pricing “reasonable.”
  • Halt environmental degradation, including wildlife trafficking and deforestation, which can contribute to the growth of pandemics.

In addition to Warren and Khanna, 139 other Democrats signed the letter, including Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. In the House, three members of the “squad” — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts — also signed.

Read the full letter.

US Representative Ro Khanna, Democrat of California, speaks during a press conference following a vote in the US House on ending US military involvement in the war in Yemen, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, April 4, 2019.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

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