Trump triggers Defense Production Act in coronavirus fight
President Trump said Friday he will trigger emergency war powers to accelerate the production of medical supplies to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump told Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in a phone call on Friday morning that he would use the Defense Production Act, according to Schumer’s office.
Trump at a news conference after the Schumer call said he has put the act “into gear,” but it’s not yet clear to what extent the White House is using the law to access more supplies.
On Wednesday, Trump signed an executive order invoking the law, which would allow the administration to force American industry to manufacture medical supplies that are in short supply, and sell them to the federal government.
The order granted authority to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to determine “the proper nationwide priorities” and to allocate all necessary health and medical resources and services.
Trump has been under pressure from bipartisan members of Congress and governors to use the powers, but had been reluctant to do so.
Trump has repeatedly said states are in a better position to manage their own supply chains than the federal government is. In a tweet Wednesday evening, Trump said he would only invoke the law in a “worst case scenario.”
On Friday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) sent a letter to Azar urging him to “exercise these delegated powers to the fullest extent necessary”
Hospitals, health workers and state and local officials have said they are quickly running out of personal protective equipment like masks, gowns and gloves, as well as ventilators.
The act allows the government to force private businesses to prioritize government contracts. The administration could also require U.S. manufactures to make additional “critical materials and goods” and offer loans or guarantees to buy them.
Trump and other officials also announced they would be restricting travel along the border with Mexico in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Trump announced that nonessential travel would no longer be permitted between the U.S. and Mexico. The restrictions are the same ones applied to the U.S.-Canada border, and trade and commerce will be allowed to continue.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the restrictions on Mexico and Canada would go into effect at midnight and be reviewed after 30 days.
The State Department on Thursday advised all Americans to avoid international travel or arrange for prompt return to the U.S. unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an extended period of time.
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