Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, joined Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Massachusetts, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and 18 of their colleagues March 20 in decrying President Donald Trump’s partial invocation of the Defense Production Act, which ignored other key titles in the act that provide essential tools for rapidly scaling up the national response to the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The senators are calling on Trump to immediately implement all Defense Production Act powers under Titles I, III, and VII to massively scale up production of testing kits, personal protection equipment such as respirators and gloves, ventilators, and other critical materials the country needs during the coronavirus emergency. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates the U.S. could need up to 3.5 billion respirators during the coronavirus emergency, but the Strategic National Stockpile holds only 12 million respirators.
“Our domestic industries are ready and waiting for the call to respond to the critical ongoing shortages of key medical equipment and supplies,” wrote the senators. “But they need capital, federal contracts, and other assurances in order to act. We can activate America’s ingenuity and resolve by immediately providing that financial incentive and direction through the full use of DPA authorities. We urge you to move forward in using these authorities immediately, for the sake of the health and well-being of the American people.”
The president’s executive order issued days ago invokes only components of Title I of the DPA and delegates its authorities to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. In their letter, the senators explain that implementing Title III authorities would allow the executive branch to provide financial incentives to industry, including loans, direct purchases, and purchase commitments, as well as to further help repurpose private manufacturing capabilities to enable manufacturers to produce the materials we need in this crisis, something other countries like South Korea and France are doing. The senators also highlight that Title VII empowers the president to establish voluntary asreements with private industry and direct coordinated industry efforts and production.
In their letter, the senators also urged Trump to follow the advice of his own public health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services and stop referring to the current coronavirus in an inflammatory and xenophobic manner.
A copy of the letter can be found at bit.ly/2WEZVGX.