House Democrats, highly skeptical of President TrumpDonald TrumpHeadaches intensify for Democrats in Florida Stormy Daniels set to testify against former lawyer Avenatti in fraud trial Cheney challenger wins Wyoming Republican activists' straw poll MORE's claim that medical equipment needed to treat patients with coronavirus is in ready supply, are asking the administration for evidence to back it up.
Behind Rep. Norma TorresNorma Judith TorresDemocrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit House passes giant social policy and climate measure State Democrat group teams up with federal lawmakers to elect down-ballot candidates MORE (D-Calif.), dozens of lawmakers are pressing the administration to provide proof that hospitals, nursing homes and other medical providers have ample access to equipment like respirators, ventilators, gloves and goggles, as the president and members of his administration have recently asserted.
In a letter to Trump delivered Thursday, 45 Democrats cite numerous cases of hospitals lacking not only test kits, but also the most basic personal protective equipment, or PPE, like medical masks and gowns. Those reports run counter to Trump's claims that the administration is keeping up with the providers' supply needs, and getting "tremendous reviews" in the process.
"Your Administration claims to be resolving shortages of critical medical supplies, yet we have not seen evidence to corroborate those claims," the Democrats wrote in their letter, obtained by The Hill. "In contrast, first responders on the front lines of this crisis are urgently warning that their needs for these medical supplies are rapidly outstripping available supply."
The Democrats are asking administration officials to disclose any information they've gathered about the availability of critical medical supplies; the specific equipment needs conveyed by providers; and the regions of the country where those supplies are most lacking. They also asked whether the administration has shared that data with the private manufacturers that might be equipped to help meet the demand.
They're seeking a response within 48 hours.
"We need a national strategy to combat this virus — one based on an understanding of how many supplies we need, how many we can get, and who needs them," the lawmakers wrote.
Among the other Democrats on the letter are Reps. Jim McGovern (Mass.), chairman of the Rules Committee; Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosSwalwell slams House Republican for touting funding in bill she voted down To boost economy and midterm outlook, Democrats must pass clean energy bill On The Trail: Retirements offer window into House Democratic mood MORE (Ill.), head of the Democrats' campaign arm; Ami BeraAmerish (Ami) Babulal BeraPhysician-lawmakers team up to urge boosters Democrats livid over GOP's COVID-19 attacks on Biden Major abortion rights group names new president MORE (Calif.), a medical doctor; and Nydia Velázquez (N.Y.), who chairs the Small Business Committee.
As the number of coronavirus cases in the United States has surged over the past week — surpassing 75,000 on Thursday, including more than 1,000 deaths — Trump and other White House officials have downplayed the reports that hospitals, doctors and nurses have been forced to treat the highly contagious disease without basic medical gear.
Trump last week said he "cannot explain the gap" between the providers' horror stories and his own rosy portrait of treatment conditions.
"I’m hearing very good things on the ground," he said.
On Saturday, Trump doubled down on that assessment, saying the medical supply needs were being met because the administration is “making much of this stuff now and much of it’s being delivered now.”
“We’ve also gotten tremendous reviews from a lot of people that can’t believe how fast it’s coming,” Trump said.
And while Trump has said he's prepared to ramp up medical supply stocks by tapping the Defense Production Act — which allows the president to force private industries to manufacture certain goods in the name of national security — he and his advisers have been reluctant to do so.
"We're getting what we need without putting the heavy hand of government down," White House adviser Peter Navarro said Sunday during Trump's now-daily press briefing.
Those assessments stand in contrast to the stories coming from a long and growing list of states, hospitals and other entities, which are sounding dire warnings that the federal response has been far too tepid to meet the growing needs of the medical workers on the front lines of diagnosing and treating the highly contagious coronavirus.
A nurse working at a hospital in Loudoun County, Va. — among the wealthiest counties in the country — told The Hill recently that the nurse's unit is down to six respirator masks, and medical workers have been asked to reuse them.
"It's disgusting," the nurse said.
Vice President Pence, who's leading the White House's coronavirus response, seemed to acknowledge Wednesday that masks are in short supply, but quickly added that efforts are underway to fill the void.
"We’ve literally identified significant resources — not just around the country, but around the world — of the masks that can be used by health care workers," he said at the White House.
On Wednesday, the Senate passed an enormous, $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill that includes $130 billion for hospitals, nursing homes and other providers, to help restore the dwindling equipment supply. The House is poised to pass that package on Friday morning, and Trump has vowed to sign it immediately.
Yet Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse has the power to subpoena its members — but does it have the will? Man who threatened to kill Ocasio-Cortez, Pelosi pleads guilty to federal charges The Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems look to repackage BBB into salvageable bill MORE (D-Calif.) is already warning that it won't be enough.
On Thursday, she praised the medical workers on the front lines of the coronavirus fight, but lamented the "shortfall" in protective equipment. She called on the administration to use the Defense Production Act to compel private manufacturers to convert their systems toward the fabrication of that equipment, and she vowed that Democrats on Capitol Hill will press for more PPE funding in the next, fourth round of coronavirus relief.
"We need to get them more personal protective equipment," she told reporters in the Capitol. "That's absolutely essential, and it is a shortfall right now."
Torres and the other 44 Democrats on Thursday's letter will certainly agree.
"You have rightly said that we are at war against an invisible enemy," they wrote to Trump. "In war, you don't leave states to fend for themselves and to compete for supplies against one another."