Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, along with 24 of his Senate colleagues, is introducing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021 (NDAA) today that would require President Trump to unlock the full authority and power of the Defense Production Act (DPA) to scale up nationwide production of the testing supplies, personal protective equipment, and medical equipment needed at the local level to address the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The DPA was first passed in 1950 to authorize the president to undertake actions to boost domestic manufacturing of goods in extraordinary circumstances. In 2009, Congress extended that authority to include domestic preparedness and national emergency response efforts.
“Unfortunately, the coronavirus crisis only seems to be accelerating,” said Merkley. “Even if the White House would rather just wish the pandemic away, as leaders, Congress can’t bury our heads in the sand and do nothing. We need to use every tool at our disposal—including the Defense Production Act—to make widespread testing available and make sure our frontline workers and health facilities have the supplies they need to treat our communities and protect their own health.”
Although President Trump announced months ago that he would invoke the DPA, he never followed through—despite urgent calls for action and a direct request from Senator Merkley and his colleagues. Senator Merkley previously teamed up with his colleagues to introduce the Medical Supply Transparency and Delivery Act, legislation to require the president to utilize all available authorities under the DPA to mobilize a federal response to the pandemic through an equitable and transparent process.
Key parts of the legislation are included in the House-passed Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solution (HEROES) Act, but the Republican majority in the Senate has refused to consider the legislation. Two weeks ago, Senator Merkley led a group of 19 lawmakers in urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the HEROES Act to the Senate floor for a debate and vote.
Senator Merkley was joined in supporting the amendment by its author, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
The NDAA is being considered on the Senate floor this week.
The full amendment is available here.