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A body is moved from a refrigeration truck serving as a temporary morgue to a vehicle at the Brooklyn Hospital Center, in Brooklyn, New York on April 8, 2020.Bryan R. Smith / AFP - Getty Images

As pandemic claims 600,000 lives in US, talk of a commission grows

It was one year ago today when Mike Pence took a COVID victory lap, boasting about falling fatality rates. This week, the US death toll topped 600,000.

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It was exactly one year ago today when then-Vice President Mike Pence, in his capacity as the head of the White House's coronavirus taskforce, wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal on the federal response to the pandemic. The message was simple: Thanks to Donald Trump, Pence argued, "we are winning the fight against the invisible enemy."

The Indiana Republican proceeded to take a tragic-in-hindsight victory lap, dismissing "grim predictions of a second wave," while insisting that the White House's approach was "a success." Pence even boasted at the time that "deaths are down to fewer than 750 a day."

It came on the heels of Donald Trump assuring the public that he expected the overall U.S. death toll from the pandemic to "probably" be around 60,000.

But in the months that followed, U.S. fatalities from COVID-19 soon topped 1,000 per day. And then 2,000 per day. And then 3,000 per day. The cumulative effect led to a staggering total that's literally 10 times the former president's prediction from last spring.

More than 600,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the U.S., according to data from Johns Hopkins University.... It's a higher death toll than the number of American soldiers killed in combat during the Vietnam War, World War I and World War II combined.

In mid-April 2020, Trump's benchmark for success was an overall domestic death toll below 240,000. At the time, anyone predicting 600,000 fatalities would've seemed like a sky-is-falling hysteric.

And yet, here we are.

Given the severity of the crisis, it's not too surprising that there's growing talk about establishing an investigative commission to review what happened and why. The New York Times reports:

Bipartisan bills have been introduced in both the House and the Senate, and have the backing of three former homeland security secretaries — two Republicans and a Democrat — as well as health groups and victims and their families. Unlike the rancorous debate that doomed the proposal for a panel to investigate the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, discussion of a Covid-19 commission has not produced partisan discord — at least, not yet.

At the risk of sounding cynical, I have a hunch we know how this will turn out. Indeed, Republicans used to support the creation of an independent Jan. 6 commission, too -- right up until they concluded that it might create political problems for Trump and the GOP.

With this in mind, what are the odds congressional Republicans will endorse a commission to investigate a public-health crisis that claimed the lives of more than 600,000 Americans?