A new report indicates that a bipartisan group of House members has agreed upon a plan that can serve as the core of America’s roadmap for recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Fox News report said a group of 50 Congress members, dubbed the Problem Solvers Caucus and representing all ideologies, has developed a list of short-term and long-term actions needed to repair economic and societal damage as well as prepare the nation for what health experts have warned will be recurring bouts with the coronavirus.
“The bottom line is people I think are eager for a checklist. They want to understand what we think it takes to get everything moving again,” Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, who co-chairs the group, said.
“What this checklist does is it shows that if you’re sincere and you want to put partisan politics aside … you can actually roll up your sleeves and you can find some common ground that makes a lot of good common sense,” Republican Rep. Tom Reed of New York, the other co-chairman, said. “It also shows that you can get the necessary votes at 218 and 60 to get it done.”
A White House roadmap released last week by President Donald Trump became fodder for bickering as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and some governors attacked it.
The bipartisan group, however, developed its plan to find a way forward, requiring that anything on its list win the support of 75 percent of the caucus’ members.
“If we can get to 75 percent-plus consensus, that’s a pretty good indication that these are solid ideas substantively that can bring people together,” Reed said.
The group’s plan is not final legislation but a group of core principles Republicans and Democrats on the panel want to see included in future legislation.
The plan envisions a new version of normal in which wearing of protective gear in public becomes business as usual while Americans await a vaccine for the coronavirus.
In particular, it calls for students and teachers to use protective masks when they return to school.
“In the short run, we need to do it to get our schools back open,” Gottheimer told Fox News.
It seeks to require some form of social distancing in businesses as they reopen, increase cleaning and sanitizing in public spaces and develop benchmarks driven by data that can empower the Department of Homeland Security to ban travel from other nations when cases overseas spike.
According to the plan, a better data system is also needed across the nation of regional hot spots when outbreaks take place so that supplies can be matched with real needs.
With the virus having exposed the reliance of Americans on China for pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, the plan would give companies incentives to bring production back to the U.S.
The roadmap to recovery includes help for small businesses through tax credits and loans as well as a system of relief for renters, landlords and homeowners who can’t meet obligations incurred before the virus-induced shutdown put millions of Americans out of work.
“What this proposal is doing is really trying to lay some groundwork. We need to do a better job of looking over the horizon and around the corners,” Reed said. “And I’ll tell you we’ve learned so much over the last four weeks.”
The major public health priority in the plan calls for rapid testing to diagnose COVID-19 and testing to learn how many people have already developed antibodies.
“The overall point is that we need to have testing,” Gottheimer said. “It’s critical to be able to fully reopen.”
The lawmakers hope the plan will become the foundation for action they expect to become a major policy issue for months to come.
“We’re going through this crisis for the next two years — by the time you get to a vaccine and the economic recovery,” Reed said in explaining the immediate, short-term and longer-term goals of the plan.
“There’s all different pieces to this at the state and federal and local level that we’re hoping this has an impact on,” Gottheimer said. “And my hope is that this is used as a checklist for others … and as a way for people to feel comfortable that we actually are making important progress in this country [and] that we are moving toward getting back to work, which is absolutely essential as long as it’s done safely.”
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