Lawmakers implore total implementation of Defense Production Act

Nellie Chapman
March 25, 2020

"We're going to use it when we need it and we're going to use it today".

Until now, President Donald Trump has been hesitant to invoke the most forceful powers of the 1950 Defense Production Act, describing it in multiple settings as more of a point of leverage than a tool his administration would employ.

At a press conference Sunday, Trump shrugged off a reporter's question about more aggressively deploying the law to increase production of critical supplies, claiming, "We're a country not based on nationalizing our business". He said the federal government was also inserting "DPA language" into its mass contract for 500 million masks.

The White House did not immediately comment.

"So, just a little while ago my team came in, and we're actually going to use the DPA for first time today", FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor told CNN. New York, New York, Washington and Los Angeles and California - that's where we are And we continue to focus on that throughout the day and until we resolve this supply issue, "said Gaynor".

Gaynor said that the allocation authority under the act-directing manufacturers' decisions-would be invoked to procure around 60,000 coronavirus test kits.

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly asked the federal government to utilize the act to direct companies to build needed supplies such as gowns, masks and ventilators.

"So, again, we want to be thoughtful about not upsetting the balance, making sure that we can get it onto the market and the federal government not consume it all. We're going to use it when we need it, and we're going to use it today", he added.

Sens. Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) recently joined 18 of their colleagues in addressing Trump's partial invocation of the Act, which they said ignores other key titles in the Act providing essential tools such as respirators and gloves, ventilators and other critical materials.

"Only the federal government has that power and not to exercise that power is inexplicable to me", Cuomo said at a briefing on Tuesday.

Cuomo, whose state now stands at ground zero in the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, has been urging the Trump administration to use the act to tell manufacturers they must produce desperately needed supplies for healthcare workers. "I do not for the life of me understand the reluctance to use the federal Defense Production Act", he said.

The president has until now been unwilling to use the DPA.

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