Committee sends Weapons of Mass Destruction bill to Senate

WASHINGTON, D.C.-- The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Nov. 4 recommended the Weapons of Mass Destruction Prevention and Preparedness Act for a vote by the full Senate.

The bill was introduced by Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Maine, and was approved by a vote of 8-1.

Collins applauded the committee's vote, saying urgency was paramount.

"The WMD Commission has warned us of the consequences of not acting," she said. "We have worked with other committees, agencies and stakeholders for almost a year. Because of the grave nature of the threat, we can wait no longer -- the time to act is now. We must move swiftly to strengthen and improve our nation's biological defenses and security systems."

The bill would create a comprehensive framework for protecting the U.S. from weapons of mass destruction generally and biological attacks in particular by identifying the most dangerous biological pathogens and strengthening security at the labs that use them. It would require the government to develop a method to distribute medical countermeasures to victims and first responders, and shape communications strategies that can quickly disseminate life-saving information to the public.