57 House Members Urge President to Invoke Defense Production Act Authority to Increase Availability of Vital Medical Supplies
Congressman Andy Levin (MI-09) today wrote a letter signed by 56 of his House colleagues urging President Trump to use his authority under the Defense Production Act of 1950 for the production of vital medical supplies to meet the extreme demand during the coronavirus pandemic.
A section of the letter reads:
“During World War II, our country adapted to the demands of the time to produce mass quantities of bombers, tanks, and many smaller items needed to save democracy and freedom in the world. We know what the demands of this time are, and we must act now to meet these demands.”
Signers of the letter include:
Colin Allred, Cindy Axne, Julia Brownley, Cheri Bustos, Gilbert R. Cisneros Jr., Emanuel Cleaver II, TJ Cox, Angie Craig, Sharice L. Davids, Danny K. Davis, Peter DeFazio, Debbie Dingell, Veronica Escobar, Abby Finkenauer, Ruben Gallego, John Garamendi, Sylvia Garcia, Jesús García, Vicente Gonzalez, Al Green, Raúl M. Grijalva, Deb Haaland, Denny Heck, Pramila Jayapal, Joseph Kennedy III, Ro Khanna, Daniel T. Kildee, Ann McLane Kuster, Andy Levin, Ted W. Lieu, Dave Loebsack, Alan Lowenthal, Carolyn Maloney, Sean Patrick Maloney, A. Donald McEachin, Donald Norcross, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Chris Pappas, Chellie Pingree, Mark Pocan, Katie Porter, Jamie Raskin, Kathleen Rice, Lisa Blunt Rochester, Max Rose, Tim Ryan, Jan Schakowsky, Adam Schiff, Robert C. "Bobby" Scott, Mikie Sherill, Elissa Slotkin, Darren Soto, Haley Stevens, Dina Titus, Jennifer Wexton and Susan Wild.
Read the letter here or below:\
March 13, 2020
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
We write to urge you to use the powers afforded by the Defense Production Act of 1950 (50 U.S.C. §§4501 et seq.) to begin the mass production of supplies needed to address the ongoing Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
The need for supplies to properly address the pandemic is acute. According to the CDC, “manufacturers of select types of [personal protective equipment] are reporting increased volume of orders and challenges in meeting order demands. Specific challenges are being reported for N95 respirators and facemasks.” These manufacturing problems have posed serious challenges for health care providers. The CDC has reported that “some healthcare systems have begun reporting that orders for N95 respirators and facemasks are not being filled or are only being partially filled by distributors”; as such, the CDC is “encouraging healthcare systems to implement strategies to conserve supplies.” We are extremely concerned that such “strategies” could force frontline health care workers to use protective equipment improperly, or go without it altogether.
Insufficient testing for cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. has been widely reported. On March 13th, the CDC reported 1,629 total cases across 46 states and the District of Columbia. However, PBS News Hour reported on March 12th, “public health experts say the only reason why those numbers have not exploded is that the nation has far too few diagnostic test kits. Lagging inventory has slowed testing.” It is critical that we massively increase testing capacity to identify cases and, accordingly, slow the spread of COVID-19.
Reporting also indicates that supplies needed to treat Americans with COVID-19 could become scarce. On March 8th, the Wall Street Journal reported that, in Europe, experts had advised “that intensive-care beds and breathing equipment such as ventilators to keep severely sick patients alive could be in short supply if the virus spreads at its current rate.” Indeed, on March 9th, Italian doctor Daniele Macchini shared a disturbing account of the outbreak in northern Italy, saying, "every ventilator becomes like gold.” Experts suggest that the United States could face similar challenges. Last month, the New York Times reported that a 2005 federal study estimated that mechanical ventilators for 740,000 critically ill people would be necessary in the event of a severe flu pandemic. According to the same Times report, “today, as the country faces the possibility of a widespread outbreak of a new respiratory infection caused by the coronavirus, there are nowhere near that many ventilators, and most are already in use.”
These reports are extremely disturbing and merit immediate action to massively upscale the supplies available to protect Americans, test for new cases of COVID-19, and treat people who test positive. Failure to act now could result in even more severe shortages that force health care workers to make harrowing choices and endanger American lives. Consequently, we urge you to use the presidential authorities granted by the Defense Production Act to mitigate these shortages without delay. These authorities could be used to direct the domestic production of equipment currently in short supply, like personal protective equipment and ventilators. This would ensure we have the materials we need at the ready, rather than wait for disruptions in the global supply chain to subside.
During World War II, our country adapted to the demands of the time to produce mass quantities of bombers, tanks, and many small items needed to save democracy and freedom in the world. We know what the demands of this time are, and we must act now to meet these demands. We urge you to invoke the Defense Production Act without delay.
Members of Congress