Practically twenty years in the past, Congress handed the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA) to guard our nation and put together for pure disasters and organic, chemical and radiological threats. Since then, the provisions enacted in that laws and subsequent reauthorizations have confirmed crucial to shoring up our public well being infrastructure and defending our nationwide well being safety. 

With PAHPA up for reauthorization once more this yr, we applaud the bipartisan management of the Senate Well being, Schooling, Labor and Pensions and Home Power & Commerce Committees for starting the crucial work of guaranteeing that our nation’s preparedness packages are correctly funded, sustained and improved.

The origins of PAHPA lie in our nation’s response to the terrorist assaults on Sept. 11, 2001, and the anthrax assaults that adopted shortly thereafter. We intimately skilled these assaults, as one of many sitting members focused with anthrax through the mail (Daschle) and the Senate’s public spokesman on anthrax and bioterrorism charged with easing public fears (Frist).

Collectively, we labored to construct the legislative framework to reply to this new menace. In 2002, Congress handed the Public Well being Safety and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act, establishing the Workplace of Public Well being Emergency Preparedness, which was liable for coordinating efforts to organize for bioterrorism and different public well being threats. Right this moment, these efforts are run by the Division of Well being and Human Service’s Administration for Strategic Readiness and Response.

4 years later, within the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Congress handed PAHPA to bolster our emergency preparedness and response capabilities by authorizing most of the federal authorities’s biodefense and pandemic preparedness packages, together with the company now often called the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response, the Nationwide Well being Safety Technique and the Biomedical Superior Analysis and Improvement Authority. With bipartisan reauthorizations in 2013 and 2019, PAHPA established new packages to reinforce our nation’s emergency response, together with Challenge BioShield, and enacted measures to strengthen the position of the Meals and Drug Administration within the improvement of medical countermeasures.

Since PAHPA’s inception and subsequent reauthorizations, each Republicans and Democrats confirmed overwhelming help for strengthening our nation’s preparedness for the total vary of pure or artifical threats and hazards. Defending our nation’s well being and well-being shouldn’t be a partisan concern, and we name on our leaders to proceed that bipartisan custom.

This yr will mark the primary time Congress will likely be tasked with reauthorizing PAHPA following the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress should take the teachings we’ve realized over the previous three years to reinforce our nation’s preparedness capabilities forward of the following pandemic — because it’s not a query of if, however when, the following one will happen. We urge Congress to keep away from turning into distracted by previous partisan fights or tangential coverage points. Our nation’s preparedness is simply too vital to jeopardize, and these crucial packages should not be allowed to lapse.   

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Congress has taken significant steps to enhance our public well being preparedness all through the COVID-19 pandemic, together with the enactment of the bipartisan PREVENT Pandemics Act in final yr’s omnibus appropriations package deal. Congress has proven, time and time once more, that it acknowledges the elemental significance of fortifying our defenses towards disasters and public well being crises. Nevertheless, a lot stays to be achieved. 

We urge Congress to capitalize on this momentum to bolster our nationwide safety and improve our public well being preparedness by reauthorizing PAHPA earlier than its expiration on Oct. 1.

Former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), a Bipartisan Coverage Heart co-founder, served within the Senate from 1987 to 2005 and as Senate majority chief from 2001 to 2003. Former Sen. Invoice Frist (R-Tenn.), a BPC senior fellow, is a doctor. He served within the Senate from 1995 to 2007 and as Senate majority chief from 2003 to 2007.

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