Thursday, October 1, 2020

Restoring Our Way of Life: Operation Warp Speed and the Holding Rioters Accountable Act.

Phil Roe

By Congressman Phil Roe - This year has been tumultuous in many ways. Our lives have been upended by COVID-19, and we’ve seen violence and unrest in cities across our country. It’s understandable to be pessimistic during these times, but there are reasons to be hopeful. We all want to restore our way of life, and the Trump administration and House Republicans are working hard to do so and get America back on its feet.

 One of the most straightforward ways to defeat COVID-19 and return our lives to a sense of normal is to develop a safe, effective vaccine. We all miss seeing our church families every Sunday, attending a concert with our favorite bands, or cheering on our favorite football team in person. Thanks to Operation Warp Speed, we are well on our way to approving a vaccine and restoring our way of life. 

Operation Warp Speed is a public-private partnership to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, treatments, and tests in a matter of months. But this does not mean we are cutting corners. The federal government and vaccine manufacturers are basing decisions on science and actual results, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will only approve a vaccine that is demonstrated to be safe and effective against COVID-19. There are already four vaccine candidates in the final phase of clinical trials, which means we could be only months away from a vaccine. This is exciting news.

In my lifetime, I have seen vaccines used to defeat deadly diseases like polio, and it’s my hope that we will add COVID-19 to that list soon. It may seem like a long time ago now, but prior to the development of the polio vaccine in the 1950s, polio caused more than 15,000 cases of paralysis each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While polio is still a threat in countries where vaccines are less available, we eliminated polio in the United States in 1979, all thanks to the polio vaccine. Likewise, a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine will help us defeat this deadly virus and put us on the path to recovery. As a doctor, I know how important vaccines are to public health, and I personally plan to receive the vaccine once it is made available for the general public.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 is not the only challenge our country is facing. This year, we have had difficult conversations about how to build community trust in law enforcement, and we’ve seen protests in cities across the country. While many of these protests have been peaceful, far too many have devolved into rioting and senseless destruction. To make matters worse, we have seen police officers targeted – and even killed – just for putting on their uniform. This is absolutely unacceptable. This violence must stop now. The overwhelming majority of our police officers are good men and women, and it is sickening to think that they would be targeted for serving our communities.

One of the most disheartening things we have seen during this violence is public officials in major cities refusing to restore peace, or even providing space for lawlessness to continue. I believe these officials ought to be held responsible for turning a blind eye to rioters and those who mean to harm law enforcement officers. That is why this week I joined my colleagues in supporting the Holding Rioters Accountable Act. This bill would allow the Justice Department to withhold 10 percent of certain federal funds from state and local jurisdictions where prosecutors are abusing prosecutorial discretion and intentionally refusing to prosecute rioters and violent protesters. This amount is increased to 20 percent in cases where prosecutors decline to prosecute an assault against a law enforcement officer. It deeply saddens me that this bill is even necessary, but we must restore peace to our cities and protect law enforcement.

Despite the challenges facing our country, we have reason to be hopeful. We still have a long road ahead, but we have made great progress toward defeating the coronavirus, and we are working to restore peace in our cities. The Trump administration and House Republicans are working around the clock to restore our way of life, and I will continue to do so during the remainder of my time in Congress.

Phil Roe represents the First Congressional District of Tennessee in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is physician and co-chair of the House GOP Doctors Caucus and a member of the Health Caucus. Prior to serving in Congress, he served as the Mayor of Johnson City, Tennessee.

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