Pelosi urges Trump to tap emergency war powers immediately

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi calls Trump's decision to withdraw US from WHO 'an act of extraordinary senselessness' House Democrats unveil measure to condemn police brutality The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Khanna says President Trump threatening violence against US citizens; Trump terminating relationship with WHO MORE (D-Calif.) on Thursday called on President TrumpDonald John TrumpMichael Flynn transcripts reveal plenty except crime or collusion 50 people arrested in Minneapolis as hundreds more National Guard troops deployed Missouri state lawmaker sparks backlash by tweeting 'looters deserve to be shot' MORE to use the emergency war powers he invoked just a day earlier to immediately press U.S. industry to accelerate the production of medical supplies to fight the coronavirus.

"Right now, shortages of critical medical and personal protective equipment are harming our ability to fight the coronavirus epidemic, endangering front-line workers and making it harder to care for those who fall ill," Pelosi said in a statement.

Trump on Wednesday had invoked the 1950 Defense Production Act — an exceedingly rare step for a president — which empowers the government to mobilize private industry to ramp up production in the name of national security.

ADVERTISEMENT

In this case, the target would be medical supplies and testing, as U.S. policymakers and health officials, scrambling to contain the spread of the fast-moving coronavirus, have faced shortages of test kits, medical masks and other provisions.

"I view it as, in a sense, a wartime president. I mean, that’s what we’re fighting," Trump said Wednesday from the White House. "It’s a war. ... It spread violently. It’s a very, very contagious virus.”

Yet in a subsequent tweet Wednesday evening, Trump suggested that while he's invoked the Defense Production Act, he has no immediate plans to use it.

"I only signed the Defense Production Act to combat the Chinese Virus should we need to invoke it in a worst case scenario in the future," he said. "Hopefully there will be no need, but we are all in this TOGETHER!"

ADVERTISEMENT

Pelosi is warning that any delay would be a mistake, urging the president to tap those powers "immediately" in order to "mass produce and coordinate distribution of these critical supplies, before the need worsens and the shortages become even more dire."

"There is not a day to lose. We must put more testing, more protective equipment and more ventilators into the hands of our front-line workers immediately,” she said.

Her statement follows a letter, sent to Trump last week by 57 House Democrats, calling on the president to use the Defense Production Act for those very purposes.

The debate arrives as Trump and Capitol Hill leaders are racing to put together a massive economic stimulus package — the third round of coronavirus relief — to lend financial help to workers, households, small businesses and large industries affected by the downturn that's resulted from the global pandemic.