Senate Dems unveil bill to federalize medical supply chain, boost production

Senate Dems unveil bill to federalize medical supply chain, boost production
© Greg Nash

Senate Democrats on Wednesday unveiled a bill to federalize the medical supply chain and increase the production of needed items like protective equipment for health workers and testing supplies.

The legislation would establish a new executive officer to oversee the production of supplies and who would issue reports every week on the supplies that are needed in the fight against the coronavirus. The officer would then be required to issue purchase orders under the Defense Production Act for those needed supplies and oversee their distribution. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSessions accepts 'Fox News Sunday' invitation to debate, Tuberville declines Priest among those police cleared from St. John's Church patio for Trump visit Trump criticizes CNN on split-screen audio of Rose Garden address, protesters clashing with police MORE has been under pressure for weeks to more fully use the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of testing supplies and protective equipment amid persistent shortages for both. He has used the law in some instances, most notably for ventilator production, but has not used it in as widespread a manner as Democrats want.

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Shortages of testing supplies like reagents, chemicals needed to run the tests, have been significantly hindering testing capacity. 

Senate Democrats said they would push for including this new measure in the next coronavirus response bill moving through Congress. 

“We cannot allow those we’re counting on to fight this disease to keep hunting and pecking for the resources they need to keep us safe, which is why this bill must be a part of the next coronavirus response package,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. 

Sens. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinWarren calls for investigation into OSHA inspections during pandemic Mail ballot surge places Postal Service under spotlight Justice Department investigating meat price increases: report MORE (D-Wis.) and Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyMissouri state lawmaker sparks backlash by tweeting 'looters deserve to be shot' The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Khanna says President Trump threatening violence against US citizens; Trump terminating relationship with WHO Senators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day MORE (D-Conn.) led the introduction of the bill along with Schumer and a total of 46 Senate Democrats. 

Governors have complained that they are left to compete with each other for supplies in the absence of forceful coordination from the federal government. 

“The president’s failure to federalize the medical supply chain has left states operating in a Lord of the Flies environment in the middle of a global pandemic,” Murphy said.