Merkley, Colleagues Announce New Legislation to Boost American Production of Medical Supplies to Battle Coronavirus

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) have introduced new legislation to expedite the procurement of medical equipment, under the Defense Production Act (DPA), to combat the spread of coronavirus and keep health care workers on the frontlines of the pandemic safe.

Despite the president’s announcement that he will invoke the DPA to spur equipment production, he has yet to follow up with any concrete plans to do so—this legislation would require the president to follow through without delay. 

“The time is right now to answer the urgent calls from our health care professionals for the protective equipment they need to do their jobs and help our communities battle the coronavirus crisis,” said Merkley. “The Defense Production Act is a commonsense, critical tool that can help us meet those critical needs, while also helping American manufacturers stay on the job.”

In addition to introducing this legislation, Senator Merkley has sent two letters—the first on March 17, and the second today—to urge the Trump administration to urgently enact DPA plans to meet the immediate and acute need for personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, diagnostic test kits, and other medical supplies.

Specifically, this legislation will:

  • Immediately require a major purchase order for 300 million N95 masks, which will allow industry to begin scaling up production of masks and other PPE materials.
  • Require the National Response Coordination Center to conduct a national assessment on current medical supply needs and a follow up major purchase order to fulfill the needs identified in the assessment.
  • Waive restrictions on dollar limitations for orders executed under DPA and a 30 day waiting period for orders that exceed $50 million.
  • Authorize increased funding for DPA accounts that are being considered for supplemental COVID-19 spending packages.

In addition to Merkley and Baldwin, the legislation is cosponsored by Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jon Tester (D-MT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). 

The full text of the bill is available here.