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March 25, 2020

To Boost Coronavirus Response, Senator King Cosponsors Bill to Direct Utilization of Defense Production Act

With administration inconsistent on whether to direct companies to transition plants to manufacture life-saving equipment, Senator and colleagues legislate response

WASHINGTON, D.C — U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) cosponsored the Medical Supply Chain Emergency Act, legislation to direct the Trump administration to implement the Defense Production Act of 1950 and federalize the manufacturing and distribution of scarce in-demand medical supplies in order to address the growing challenges of 50 states and thousands of hospitals competing against each other for medical equipment. The Trump administration has told the American people on several occasions that they have already begun this process but there has been no meaningful action taken—leaving hospital and healthcare workers without the proper gear, and fighting against each other in a bidding war for supplies.

“Our healthcare providers are on the frontlines of fighting this pandemic in our communities, and it’s vital that they have the tools they need to protect themselves as they treat their patients,” said Senator King. “Right now, we have too many different states and hospitals bidding against each other for needed supplies, driving up costs and creating confusion. Through federal leadership, we can establish a clear-cut chain of command that maximizes production and ensures that we are properly allocating this lifesaving equipment. We have a responsibility to do right by these professionals who are undertaking great personal risks to protect our communities – let’s come together and take care of them.”

The Medical Supply Chain Emergency Act would require the president to use authorities under the Defense Production Act of 1950 to require emergency production of medical equipment to address the COVID-19 outbreak. Specifically, the bill would force President Trump to identify private sector capacity to help nothing less than 500,000,000 N95 respirators; 200,000 medical ventilators; 20,000,000 face shields; 500,000,000 pairs of gloves; and 20,000,000 surgical gowns in addition to other medical equipment deemed necessary. The legislation would further require the administration to direct the distribution of these supplies, to end the unnecessary competition between states and health care institutions for these increasingly scarce resources. The Defense Production Act of 1950 confers upon the president a broad set of authorities to influence domestic industries in the interest of national defense. The authorities can be used across the federal government to shape the domestic industrial base so that it is capable of providing essential materials and goods needed for national defense.

Senator King has pushed the government to quickly act to make sure the country’s medical professionals have the tools they need to stem the spread of coronavirus. Yesterday, he cosponsored legislation aiming to address the impending crisis facing our healthcare system as the spread of the coronavirus epidemic increasingly strains hospitals and providers across the country. Earlier this week, he requested answers from President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence regarding the status of supplies and equipment to help healthcare providers effectively treat patients while protecting themselves.  Last Wednesday, Senator King urged the President to use his existing DPA powers to address the shortages of personal protective equipment, ventilators, diagnostic test kits, and other life-saving medical equipment. He has also urged the FCC to expand access to telehealth services in rural communities, and joined the Maine delegation to urge Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar to quickly distribute personal protective equipment to Maine.

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