U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., is leading House members to urge President Trump to “make urgent and effective use” of the Defense Production Act to address the COVID-19 crisis.
On Monday, the Central Virginia lawmaker introduced a bipartisan resolution, endorsed by 13 other House members—both Republicans and Democrats—urging the president to immediately share with Congress his plans to use the act’s authorities, including the administration’s targets and timelines to produce supplies such as personal protective equipment (PPE) for health-care workers.
The resolution also calls for the administration to report to Congress on the results of its ongoing use of these authorities in the fight against the coronavirus.
““Throughout the past week, I’ve had personal conversations with hospital administrators in our district who lack the supply of personal protective equipment they need to keep our doctors and nurses safe in the weeks and months to come,” Spanberger said in a statement. “They are deeply concerned for their employees, and they are alarmed by the potential effects on patients.”
Virginia health care facilities have been experiencing a shortage of personal protective equipment such as masks, protective gloves, face shields, and hand sanitizer, her office said.
“As Virginia sees a rapid rise in coronavirus cases, the lives of our neighbors are hanging in the balance,” the 7th District legislator said. “We need to see clear targets and timelines for mask and ventilator production, because we cannot afford to jeopardize the lives of our community’s heroes in this moment of unprecedented uncertainty.”
The president has declared the coronavirus pandemic to be a national emergency.
Last Friday, Trump triggered the Defense Production Act, which allows the administration to force companies to manufacture emergency medical supplies for future sale to the federal government.
Spanberger’s resolution states that the U.S. House of Representatives stands ready to appropriate additional money to meet the needs of invoking the act.
To try to meet the U.S. health-care system’s critical supply needs, Spanberger is leading the resolution with U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-Mich. Seven of the 14 original sponsors are Republicans and seven are Democrats.
Katie Porter D-Calif.., Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, Steve Chabot, R_Ohio, Don Bacon R-Neb., Dan Kildee, D-Mich., Diana Degette, D-Colo., Ted Lieu, D-Calif., Fred Upton, R-Mich., Rodney Davis, R-Ill., Van Taylor, R-Texas, Mikie Sherill, (D-N.J., and Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., also support the measure.
“Promises from a podium do not translate into results on the ground, and the lack of a strategic federal response to equipment shortages in our local hospitals is beyond unacceptable,” Spanberger said. “The administration must use the Defense Production Act’s powers to come to the immediate aid of our health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis.”
“The president tweeted that he is waiting for a ‘worst case scenario’ to use the Defense Production Act, which is maddening,” Levin said, acccording to Spanberger’s office. “Frontline health care workers are already treating patients without the personal protective equipment they need, some falling victim to the virus themselves.
“A nurse in my district described her ER as a ‘war zone’ in the fight for masks, everyone given one per shift. Soon, our health care workers will be battling for their patients to get the one ventilator available. Why are we waiting for that day to come?”
While Trump invoked part of the Defense Production Act last week, no company has reported receiving an order by the administration to produce supplies, Levin said.
“The DPA does not nationalize businesses, as some suggest,” Upton said. “It does, however, allow the government to direct businesses to make certain supplies that are desperately needed in our fight against the coronavirus. The companies would remain private. Let’s be clear, to address this generational crisis, we need to use every single tool in the tool box.”
“The Defense Production Act exists for situations exactly like this one, where an organized response from industry is vital to national security,” Porter said. “The repeated delays by the administration make Congressional action an imperative.”
“The president must implement the Defense Production Act immediately,” Lieu said. “We can’t wait any longer. “
“We’ve seen some companies and individuals step up to manufacture needed equipment, and though that’s appreciated, we still don’t have nearly enough supplies to address the crisis in front of us,” Levin said. “This is a matter of life and death and the president must act accordingly to make sure our healthcare workers have what they need to save lives.”
“This is an unprecedented moment for our nation—a threat unlike any we have experienced in our lifetimes,” Taylor said. “In order to succeed in slowing the spread and saving lives we must ensure the nurses, doctors, and first responders on the frontlines of this pandemic have the tools and gear they need to get the job done.”
“We are in the midst of an unprecedented global health crisis,” DeGette said. “... If we don’t act fast, thousands of health care workers could soon be at risk of contracting this virus. If our doctors and nurses aren’t available to care for us, who will?”
On Friday, Spanberger and colleagues urged top U.S. trade officials and the Defense Department to leverage trade relationships to prevent shortages of key medical supplies and PPE during the coronavirus pandemic.
Hours after their letter was sent, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced it would make medical supplies a trade priority.