WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján joined 24 of their Senate colleagues in a letter to President-elect Joe Biden, supporting his incoming administration’s plan to quickly utilize all available authorities under the Defense Production Act (DPA) to rapidly increase the production and stockpiling of medical, testing and protective equipment supplies.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Heinrich and Luján have been calling on the Trump administration to fully utilize the DPA to ramp up nationwide production of testing supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE), and medical equipment. The Trump administration failed to do this, which has created continued supply chain issues that are having dangerous impacts on the nation’s response to COVID-19, as well as the nation’s ability to scale up vaccine production and distribution.
In their letter to the President-elect, the senators support the Biden administration’s intended use of executive action to utilize all authorities under the DPA and deploy a more functional response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The senators write, “Given the continued supply chain issues that we have seen over the past year, we believe it is in the best interest of the American public to shore up our access to critical supplies immediately and in the long term through all available DPA authorities.”
They continue, “The DPA can help us reach our goal of vaccinating enough of the American public to achieve herd immunity by ramping up production of sterile needles, rubber stoppers, syringes and other vaccine supplies now … we need to use every tool available to make up the ground we have lost. The DPA could also be used to regulate vaccine distribution, ensure that companies do not charge for the vaccine in the future and enhance production of materials needed for vaccines to address future pandemics.”
The senators note how American manufacturers and workers have stepped up to increase domestic manufacturing of PPE throughout the pandemic, but that the DPA must also be used to ensure these manufacturers, many of whom have acted in the interest of public health, have greater access to affordable, domestically-sourced raw materials.
The senators conclude, “Make no mistake, a dependable and resilient domestic manufacturing capacity to respond to a global pandemic is a national security imperative. Given the opaque nature of the transition and the lack of transparency from the current administration, we understand that your team may not yet have full insight into the state of the medical supply pipeline and Strategic National Stockpile. We stand ready to partner with you to help overcome these substantial obstacles. Your use of executive action to utilize the extraordinary authorities under DPA will support a more functional response to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure that America is stronger now and more resilient when the next pandemic occurs.”
The letter was led by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and in addition to Heinrich and Luján was also signed by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Angus King (I-Maine), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).
The full letter is available here.