Under President Donald Trump, the federal government’s Coronavirus response has often proven lagging. It took weeks for him to formally declare a national emergency over the outbreak — reportedly in part because he was concerned about the impact of such a declaration on the public image of his administration. Now, members of Congress including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) are urging him to cut the slack and — among other steps — use the Defense Production Act to direct the production and distribution of medical equipment direly needed around the country.
Emergency preparedness activities are specifically included in the scope of production that the president can order via the act, FEMA notes. (Other covered policy areas include protection and restoration of critical infrastructure and Continuity of Government.)
‘Health care workers and hospital staff are our first line of defense against Coronavirus — and they’re telling us they don’t have sufficient supplies. President Trump must use his authority under the Defense Production Act to address this critical medical supply shortage.’
Health care workers and hospital staff are our first line of defense against Coronavirus — and they’re telling us they don’t have sufficient supplies.
President Trump must use his authority under the Defense Production Act to address this critical medical supply shortage. https://t.co/d0uTarH6UU
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) March 17, 2020
Trump did eventually invoke the act to direct the needed additional production, although he has not consistently stepped up to the task. During a recent conference call with governors reported upon by The New York Times, he told those state leaders that they should pursue leads to obtain supplies like respirators on their own. When Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer publicly criticized Trump for leaving states like hers out in the cold, Trump mockingly tweeted that she was “failing” and should “work harder,” although she’s already taken dramatic and substantive steps like the closure of schools, restaurants, bars, and similar establishments.
Failing Michigan Governor must work harder and be much more proactive. We are pushing her to get the job done. I stand with Michigan!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 17, 2020
Next up will likely be a Coronavirus relief funding package that the Senate is slated to approve this Wednesday, which includes provisions like free Coronavirus testing for those who need it, expanded unemployment benefits, and more.
Check out Twitter’s response to Schiff below.