A bipartisan bill led by U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) would force President Donald Trump to take advantage of a wartime-era law that would speed production of critically-needed medical supplies, easing shortages in states that are already running out just weeks into the country’s COVID-19 outbreak.
Slotkin and fellow U.S. Reps. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and John Katko (R-N.Y.) announced the “Medical Supply Chain Emergency Act” on Tuesday. The legislation would require Trump to trigger the Defense Production Act (DPA).
The DPA originated as part of the United States’ response to the Korean War, and has been reauthorized by U.S. presidents more than 50 times since 1950. The act temporarily nationalizes the manufacturing industry to coordinate the mass production and distribution of resources needed for times of war or espionage — or, in this case, during a shortage of medical supplies needed to combat a pandemic.
Once invoked and acted upon by a president, the DPA requires the industry to prioritize government orders and provides incentives to do so.
Although Trump did invoke the DPA last Wednesday, he has, so far, been reluctant to actually make use of the DPA’s powers in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. The Medical Supply Chain Emergency Act would require Trump to use them to speed the mass production of protective equipment and other medical supplies for hospitals around the country.
“The most urgent task for the federal government is to accelerate the flow of vital supplies to our front-line medical providers,” Slotkin said in a press release Tuesday.
“I would not ordinarily advocate for legislation telling the executive branch how to manage a crisis, but I cannot ignore the outcry from my district and my state. We need federal action now, and if the President will not use his authorities, I will do everything I can to push him to act,” Slotkin said.
Many governors have voiced their concerns over the lack of federal resources being allocated to states, which has led to states having to compete with each other for supplies. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has repeatedly called on Trump to send additional medical supplies to Michigan, and has criticized his administration for its slow and seemingly disjointed response to the outbreak.
Michigan, with almost 1,800 cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday and many more expected to be announced Wednesday afternoon, now ranks in the top five U.S. states for confirmed COVID-19 cases. There have been 24 deaths.
Slotkin’s bill would specifically compel Trump to “identify private sector capacity to produce nothing less than 500 million N95 respirators, 200,000 medical ventilators, 20 million face shields, 500 million pairs of gloves, 20 million surgical gowns, and any other medical material deemed necessary for medical care personnel to do their jobs.”
It would also require the Trump administration to direct the distribution of these supplies to end competition between states and health care facilities.
Trump also has resisted calls for a national stay at home order, even as more states — including Michigan, Ohio and California — have taken such action. Several big doctors, nurses and medical groups have urged Trump to do a stay at home order: the American Medical Society, American Nurses Association, Committee to Protect Medicare and the American Hospital Association.