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Lankford Wants to Remove Federal Roadblocks that Weakened Pandemic Preparedness

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Government Operations and Border Management, along with Senators Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mike Braun (R-IN), and John Barrasso (R-WY) today introduced the Pandemic Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Act, which would help Congress repeal or modify regulations that have impeded our nation’s ability to rapidly respond to the coronavirus pandemic and/or that would impede response to a future pandemic. Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) introduced the House companion bill.

“We need to turn the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic into best practices,” said Lankford. “Oklahomans helped identify ways we could have been better prepared for this pandemic, and if this bill becomes law, Congress will be able to identify and address areas of weakness and areas where the federal government needlessly got in the way.”

“Responding to this pandemic has required us to modify government processes and regulations, whether to facilitate increased telemedicine or launch Operation Warp Speed, which historically accelerated vaccine development,” said Hagerty. “Rather than returning to the status quo, we need to determine which regulations the pandemic has revealed to be unnecessary, so we can accelerate the comeback of our small businesses and be ready for future emergencies.”

The Pandemic Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Act establishes an accountable, expert-led, commission to identify ineffective, unnecessary, or overly burdensome regulations that should be modified, consolidated, harmonized, or repealed to promote jobs and higher wages; reduce household expenses; improve economic performance and competitiveness; reduce compliance costs; encourage growth and innovation; improve competitiveness; and protect public health, safety, and welfare.

  • Examples of some changes made during the COVID-19 pandemic the commission would closely study to determine if they should be made permanent:
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) relaxed HIPPA rules to allow healthcare providers to use video services like Skype, Zoom, and Webex to meet and communicate with patients, they were not previously allowed to use these services.
  • HHS allowed physicians or other healthcare professionals to practice in states where they were not licensed, as long as they were licensed in their home state.
  • The Department of Transportation (DOT) suspended hours-of-service regulations to give greater flexibility to transport essential supplies.

The bill would direct the commission to:

  • Prioritize regulations where modification, consolidation, harmonization, or repeal could assist in recovery from or continued response to adverse health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and preparedness for, response to, or recovery from a future pandemic;
  • Review regulations that impose disproportionately high costs on small entities, impose substantial paperwork burdens, or could be strengthened in effectiveness while reducing regulatory costs; and
  • Prepare and submit to Congress a set of regulations with recommendations for modification, consolidation, or repeal.

“The Code of Federal Regulations is 185,000 pages long, and costs the average household almost $15,000 per year. While agencies loosened rules against telemedicine, vaccine approval, and remote education and work in response to COVID, there are still many rules on the books that are slowing the economic recovery. Obsolete regulations also make the country less resilient against the next crisis. Congress has neither the time nor the political will to take on a regulatory housecleaning project. Taking a cue from the successful BRAC commissions from the 1990s that saved billions of dollars in military spending, the PPRRA would establish an independent commission to go through COVID-related regulations and give Congress a reform package it can act on. This would provide a potent economic stimulus that does not require more spending, while giving people more flexibility to adapt to whatever the next crisis throws at us.” – Ryan Young, Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute

“On behalf of NFIB, the nation’s leading small business advocacy organization, I write in support of the Pandemic Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Act. This legislation would create a review commission to help Congress identify regulations, in light of lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, that should be modified, consolidated, harmonized, or repealed. Recommendations of the commission would then be acted upon by Congress in an expedited manner similar to the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. According to NFIB’s Problems and Priorities Survey, unreasonable government regulation continues to be one of the top concerns of small businesses. Simply put, small business owners do not have the resources—like departments dedicated to managing regulatory compliance—or the flexibility to meet the demands of burdensome regulations. Given that hundreds of regulatory requirements have been waived or suspended by federal agencies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in many cases with universally recognized beneficial results, a large-scale regulatory review is warranted now more than ever. The regulatory relief and flexibility gained by this process would be beneficial to the small business recovery. NFIB supports the Pandemic Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Act and appreciates your continued leadership on regulatory reform.” – Kevin Kuhlman, Vice President, Federal Government Relations, National Federation of Independent Business (Full letter HERE)

“Government bureaucracy should not delay public health response efforts or stall economic recovery. Initial failures in coronavirus response caused?by many unneeded, inefficient regulatory barriers are the consequence of heavy-handed government regulations. The Trump administration’s work to remove those barriers unleashed a wave of private innovation. As policymakers consider further economic recovery measures, vaccine distribution, and future pandemic preparedness, they should make current regulatory relief permanent and identify where statutory changes are needed to fully remove these barriers.” – Paul Winfree, director of the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies and Richard F. Aster fellow, and Charmaine Yoest, vice president of the Institute for Family, Community and Opportunity (Winfree and Yoest served as executive directors of the National Coronavirus Recovery Commission at the Heritage Foundation) (Full statement HERE)

“By cutting red tape and getting government out of the way, the United States created an environment that led to the creation of safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines in record time.  The Pandemic Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Act takes these lessons and applies them to the economic recovery that our country is now facing to ensure it is not strangled by unnecessary, heavy-handed regulations from Washington. Heritage Action encourages Senators to support this legislation.” – Garrett Bess, Vice President of Government Relations and Communications, Heritage Action for America

“More than a year into this pandemic, closely examining regulations and eliminating or streamlining those that have stood in the way of our nation’s recovery from COVID-19, economic and otherwise, is more critical than ever. Especially in the face of a Biden administration that continues to reimpose innumerable regulatory burdens that harm American prosperity, we thank Senator Lankford for his leadership in exercising Congress’ proper role in executive oversight to this common sense end for a smart and fast recovery for our nation.” – Adam Brandon, President, FreedomWorks:

“We are thrilled to see the reintroduction of the Pandemic Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Act. Reassessing the efficacy of federal rules and regulations should always be a priority of Congress, but particularly when millions of Americans continue to face economic hardship from the coronavirus pandemic. The review proposed by this bill provides a proven path forward for eliminating unnecessary barriers to well-being and progress. We commend this timely effort and enthusiastically endorse the PPRRA.” – Jonathan Bydlak, Director of Governance Program, R Street Institute

 “It’s clear that some federal regulations inhibited a robust economic and public health response to COVID-19 – that’s why federal agencies have temporarily suspended or modified hundreds of regulations since the start of the pandemic. The Pandemic Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Act would ensure Congress has a dedicated channel for considering which regulations should be permanently modified or repealed going forward, which would support a robust economic recovery from COVID-19 and make America better prepared for the next health or economic crisis. National Taxpayers Union applauds Senator Lankford for introducing this important bill.” – Andrew Lautz, Director of Federal Policy, National Taxpayers Union

“As our economy recovers from the immense damage the Coronavirus pandemic has caused, it is vitally important that burdensome red tape does not stand in the way of job creation or small business growth. Additionally, needless regulation should not stand in the way of our nation’s ability to respond to future pandemics or outbreaks. If implemented, the PPRRA will help advance future regulatory reform by providing a pathway to repeal regulations that were never needed in the first place. Congress should pass the PPRRA and President Biden should sign it into law.” – Tom Hebert, Federal Affairs Manager, Americans for Tax Reform (full blog post HERE)