A bipartisan caucus of 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives just published a Reopen and Recovery Back to Work Checklist which lays out what it calls a “multi-prong, data-driven proposal focused on reopening America safely and  reigniting the economy.” The document was furnished to congressional leadership as well as to the White House as a series of options to consider in the next round of policy discussions related to the nation’s coronavirus response.

The six-page Checklist introduces itself with this statement of purpose: “Now, even as we continue to focus on the health crisis, we need a clear back-to-work plan, with clear benchmarks addressing the multi-faceted approach we need to reopen America, safely and with the best chance of reigniting the economy immediately. We must continue to work together, stay focused on the problem, and put country ahead of ideological opportunism.”

The Checklist covers three major topics that need to be addressed by Congress:  public health, economic recovery, and a longer-term economic stimulus. For example, it pushes for personal protective equipment for all healthcare workers, employees in essential jobs, and access to masks in all schools before they can be re-opened. In its economic recovery section, it states that we need to “Identify products manufactured in hot zones and how we can re-source the supply when necessary. We need a clear plan before we can reopen to meet these operational barriers to ensure viability for our nation’s businesses.” This includes both medical as well as manufacturing supplies. It also encourages creating incentives that will bring these supply chains back to the United States.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., said the idea for the Problem Solvers Caucus, formed in 2017, came out of a felt need to end the partisan bickering that has, over the last few years, marked much of Congress’ policy discussion.

“Our bipartisan plan to get folks back to work while prioritizing public health and safety sets benchmarks based on science,” said Upton. “This plan focuses on our nation’s immediate needs to keep people healthy, stimulate our economy, and protect folks’ jobs. We need to lower the temperature in the room and realize that reopening our nation will require a dynamic, multifaceted approach, and I look forward to working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reopen America.” 

It is encouraging to see bipartisanship in anything Congress does, since so many bills are passed on a partisan basis marked by rancorous debate and name-calling. It will be useful to see how the Checklist informs the continuing policy debate over the coronavirus response by the nation’s lawmakers.