“We’ve got to put partisanship aside and do what’s best not only for the health of the American people, but the health of the American economy.”

By on May 15, 2020 in Featured News, News

 width=Burgess Says Congress Needs to Focus on Policy, Not Politics, in its Response to COVID-19

WASHINGTON, DC – The Ripon Society held a virtual meeting this past Wednesday with U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess (TX-26). Burgess is the longest serving doctor in the House of Representatives, having practiced medicine for nearly 30 years prior to his election in 2002.

He is also a member of the Energy & Commerce Committee, which has broad jurisdiction over not only how the federal government is responding to the coronavirus, but how Washington plans to restart a once-booming economy that has been intentionally and purposefully brought to its knees.

Burgess — shown above addressing The Ripon Society this past February — talked about both of these challenges in his remarks.

“We all talk about wanting our response to be science-based,” the Texas lawmaker stated, referring to COVID-19. “You look at the populations that have been most severely affected by this virus, and it is clearly older individuals — individuals who are living in close proximity in some of the extended care and nursing home facilities where some of the problems have occurred. So logically, we should concentrate our efforts on those types of settings and those types of sites. I think we are seeing more of that happening now. It took a little while to get to that point, but we are there.”

“Testing has also obviously been a big problem. I still don’t completely understand what the difficulty is at the Center for Disease Control. They did all this testing at the beginning and they were pretty far behind, and then they got farther behind the longer it went on. It seemed to take them several weeks to recognize that they weren’t up to the task. Yesterday at his press conference, the President said nine million tests have been performed in this country. And we’re on a pace to perform many hundreds of thousands of tests per day. That’s a good thing. It’s also something that is going to be required for us to be able to get back to some semblance of normal.

Burgess was also cautiously optimistic about the progress being made in the early stages to develop a vaccine.

“Vaccine development is occurring at a pace and scope unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” he said. “It is occurring on multiple platforms with different techniques. That is a good thing. The Food and Drug Administration has said that they are going to license a vaccine before it has completed the trials. The important thing about that is not that they’re going to be selling a vaccine that’s not licensed. But as soon as the vaccine successfully gets through all three of the phases of clinical trials, the production will already have been ramped up and the vaccine will be more readily available because that production has already occurred.

“We do have to be careful, though, because an inappropriate vaccine can be a real problem. We had an episode of swine flu in the 1970s that was pretty bad, and they hastily developed a swine flu vaccine. Unfortunately, there were some complications from the vaccine, and that kind of set things back significantly. That good news was that the swine flu epidemic turned out to be not as bad as they feared. There have been some other vaccines that have been released perhaps a little prematurely and have caused some problems. So you don’t want to rush a vaccine through the process. That being said, I’m encouraged by what I’m seeing at the FDA and NIH.”

Following his opening remarks, Burgess was asked a number of questions, including one about the Energy & Commerce Committee and his thoughts on its role overseeing the federal response to COVID-19.

“I have argued for several weeks — going back to the early part of February — that our committee and subcommittee should be front and center on this,” the Texas Republican stated. “After all, we passed the Pandemic All Hazard Preparedness Act. We worked on it in the last Congress when I was subcommittee chair, and we finally got it across the finish line in this Congress after some senators removed their holds on the bill. It was signed into law by the President in June of 2019.

“Now, six months later, we’re in the middle of a worldwide plague. You’d think normal curiosity would be for the committee that wrote that bill to say, ‘Let’s look at this real time. Let’s do the real time oversight and ask, ‘Did we get it right? Are there places where we could have done better? Are there things that maybe should have been done differently?’

“We didn’t do that. We had hearings on everything under the sun in late January, February, and early March — flavored tobacco, horse racing, ticket stubs. You name it — we did significant oversight work. But here on the one thing that possibly could have made a significant difference early in the course of this pandemic, we didn’t get it done.”

Burgess had similar questions about the decision to hold a hearing with FDA whistleblower Rick Bright.

“The whole purpose of the hearing seems to be to call into question whether or not the Administration has had the correct response to the virus,” he observed. “Fair enough — there’s plenty of time to do that. But at the end of the day, we’ve got to put partisanship aside and do what’s best not only for the health of the American people, but the health of the American economy.”

With regard to the health of the economy, Burgess concluded by saying he believed the latest package proposed by the Democrats was misdirected, too expensive, and wouldn’t get it done.

“If I thought another $3 trillion would solve the problems we face,” he stated, “you might convince me to seriously consider it. But here’s the thing — we cannot print or electronically produce enough dollars to replace the entire United States economy. We just can’t. And as a consequence, if you do not allow the economic engine to begin to spin again, there’s no way we can keep up with this.

“Every couple of weeks, we can do another bill that includes another $2 or $3 trillion of aid for some deserving group. But you reach a point where the well runs dry and you’ve got no more to give. We’re a country that produces, and we’ve got people in this country who want to go back to work. We need to give them the opportunity to do that in areas where it’s safe and where we can ramp up the testing.”

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.

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