Ernst calls for public presidential campaign funds to go to masks, protective equipment

Ernst calls for public presidential campaign funds to go to masks, protective equipment
© Greg Nash

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstIowa Democrat tops Ernst in early fundraising report EPA's Wheeler grilled by Democrats over environmental rollbacks amid COVID-19 The Hill's Coronavirus Report: CDC Director Redfield responds to Navarro criticism; Mnuchin and Powell brief Senate panel MORE (R-Iowa) on Friday called for the federal government to use more than $350 million in the mostly dormant public presidential election fund to pay for masks and other equipment needed by health care workers battling the coronavirus.

“Right now there’s more than $350 million in unused cash sitting around in the obsolete and outdated presidential election campaign fund. This is simple. We should immediately move that money to where it’s critically needed,” Ernst said.

“Let’s put it toward more masks and personal protective equipment for the health care workers who are on the front lines of this pandemic,” she said.

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Ernst has introduced a bill that would immediately provide more than $357 million to purchase specialized face masks and other protective equipment for doctors, nurses and first responders.

The legislation would redirect money from the presidential election campaign fund to the Department of Health and Human Services’s strategic national stockpile.

Health care providers around the country have faced shortages of masks and other protective equipment in large part because of supply chain disruptions in China.

Senior administration health officials alerted senators last week to potential problems in obtaining protective and medical equipment during a briefing in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee room last week.

Taxpayer contributions to the presidential election campaign fund have steadily trended downward since the early 1980s as the amount of private money flowing into campaign coffers has jumped.

The late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Memo: Activists press Biden on VP choice Biden takes page from Trump with public auditions for VP slot Why Trump, GOP are running into trouble in Arizona MORE (R-Ariz.) was the last major party nominee to accept public financing in the 2008 presidential election. In the 2016 presidential campaign, President Trump and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump escalates fight against mail-in voting Sunday shows preview: States begin to reopen even as some areas in US see case counts increase The Electoral College is not democratic — nor should it be MORE opted out of the public financing system.