Schumer doubles down in call for Trump to name coronavirus supply czar
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is doubling down on his call for President Trump to name a “czar” to oversee the production and distribution of coronavirus-related medical supplies.
Schumer sent a letter to Trump on Thursday saying it was “long past the time” to name a senior military officer to lead the effort, including allowing the individual to use the Defense Production Act “to complete and rapidly implement a plan for the increased production, procurement and distribution of critically-needed medical devices and equipment.”
“The existing federal leadership void has left America with an ugly spectacle in which States and cities are literally fending for themselves, often in conflict and competition with each other, when trying to procure precious medical supplies and equipment,” Schumer wrote.
The letter to Trump comes after the Senate Democratic leader initially called on the administration to appoint a “czar” during an interview on Wednesday night with CNN’s Erin Burnett.
Trump fired back at Schumer in a tweet on Thursday morning, referring to him as “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer.”
“Somebody please explain to Cryin’ Chuck Schumer that we do have a military man in charge of distributing goods, a very talented Admiral, in fact,” Trump tweeted, referring to Rear Adm. John Polowczyk, who is leading FEMA’s supply chain task force.
Schumer’s home state has been hard hit by the coronavirus, with some hospitals in New York City reporting being overrun with cases. Of the country’s 5,151 coronavirus deaths, 1,374 have been from New York City, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The city has had a total of 47,439 confirmed cases.
Schumer, in his letter, referred to Peter Navarro, who Trump said last week would be the national Defense Production Act policy coordinator, as being “woefully unqualified.”
“The existence of a separate ‘shadow’ effort elsewhere in the White House, led by equally inexperienced and unqualified people, has made the Administration’s response even more confused and uncoordinated,” he said.
Trump has been criticized by Democrats for not quickly or sufficiently putting into use the Defense Production Act, a law that allows him to compel companies to produce critical medical supplies amid the outbreak.
Schumer added in his letter that “it is clear that the capacity of American industry has not yet been fully harnessed, either in prioritizing and allocating urgently needed medical supplies and equipment, in rapidly expanding domestic manufacturing efforts to produce them, or in providing certainty to manufacturers … that the US will use and distribute all of the medical equipment and supplies they can produce.”
“This is a failure that must be addressed quickly for the sake of our health care professionals and the people that are vulnerable to and already sick with this deadly disease,” he wrote.