U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut is co-sponsoring a bill that would federalize the manufacture and distribution of in-demand medical supplies to address what a statement describes as “the growing inefficiencies of 50 states and thousands of hospitals competing against each other for medical supplies.”
Co-sponsored by Democratic colleague U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, 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 in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Specifically, the bill would force President Donald Trump to identify private sector capacity to help nothing less than 500 million N95 respirators; 200,000 medical ventilators; 20 million face shields; 500 million pairs of gloves; and 20 million surgical gowns in addition to other medical equipment deemed necessary.
The legislation would further require the administration to direct the distribution of those supplies in order to end the competition between states and health care institutions for such scarce resources. Several governors have expressed frustration over the past few days over the fact that Trump has invoked, but not officially enforced, the Defense Production Act, leaving them to scramble for supplies.
The Defense Production Act 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.
“The current system, in which states and hospitals are competing against each other for scarce equipment, is both unnecessary and barbaric,” Murphy said. “Enough is enough. It’s time to centralize the critical medical supply chain and distribution during this public health crisis.
“The Defense Production Act allows the president to require U.S. manufacturers to pivot production towards medical equipment,” Murphy continued, “and our legislation requires him to actually do this and then take the additional step to direct the distribution of the gear, so that it ends up in the places of true need.”
“Our health care workers need help now,” Schatz said. “Our bill will immediately ramp up production of medical supplies, including masks, gloves, and ventilators so that our health care workers have the equipment they need to protect and care for themselves and their patients.”