Congress and COVID-19: We Needed Leadership; They Gave Us Cash   [open pdf - 896KB]

From the Executive Summary: "This report provides the first comprehensive account of Congress' response to the COVID-19 [coronavirus disease 2019] pandemic. While some political observers feared that partisan polarization and general complacency had left the federal government unable to act, no matter how dire the circumstance, in fact the coronavirus emergency provoked a historic flurry of congressional activity. By uniting behind deals negotiated by their leaders, legislators proved themselves able to rapidly mobilize trillions of dollars through massive deficit spending unprecedented in peacetime. But the historic legislation they passed in March and April 2020 was accompanied by little meaningful public deliberation about the difficult trade-offs that COVID-19 forced onto American society. As the acute phase of crisis response abated, lawmakers never seriously pursued broadly acceptable compromises on crucial issues such as lockdowns, testing, and vaccine regulations. Although Congress provided a second major round of spending with laws in December 2020 and March 2021, COVID-19 mostly disappeared from the legislature's agenda even as it killed hundreds of thousands more Americans. A widespread belief that public health experts were best suited to handle pandemic policy questions leads some observers to question whether legislators could have contributed by being more active. But legislators' deference to agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration was often unwarranted, as bureaucrats refused to depart from familiar routines to confront the fast-moving crisis."

2021 American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Posted here with permission. Documents are for personal use only and not for commercial profit.
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