Trump's refusal to use wartime powers to direct scarce medical supplies has left states fighting it out

Don Lee and Jennifer Haberkorn, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

A growing number of lawmakers from both parties have been pushing Trump to make use of the law's broad authority given the scarcity of ventilators, medical masks, gowns and other protective gear in areas where the need is greatest.

"I don't want to see doctors having to make a choice of who gets to live and who has to die because they don't have the equipment to save their lives," said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on his podcast.

"If we wake up two weeks from now and instead of 11,000 cases, we have 200,000 cases or a million cases, it might be too late then," Cruz said.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said he was glad Trump invoked the act last week but disappointed it hasn't been put into effect.

"Instead of using them, he's equivocating," he said Monday, citing Trump's remarks that companies are voluntarily boosting production. "We don't have 18 months. It's literally life and death."

Some lawmakers have become so frustrated that they've introduced a bill demanding the act's usage in the hopes of expediting the production of medical equipment. The bill would require a purchase order of 300 million medical N95 masks and other personal protective equipment, and that the National Response Coordination Center conduct a national assessment on current medical supply needs and fill in missing gaps.


"The shortage of medical supplies like masks and ventilators in hospitals in California and across the nation is unacceptable. It's past time the president ensures health care workers have the supplies and resources they need to protect themselves and combat the coronavirus pandemic," said Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., who with Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., introduced the bill.

The administration's strategy of invoking but not using the wartime power appears in part designed to meet its political needs. At Tuesday's briefing, for example, Vice President Pence did not directly contradict Gaynor's comments but said that "at this point no one said no" to federal requests or orders.

Trump's public posture aligns with that of many conservatives and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the most powerful voice of corporate America, which dismisses the need for such government intervention.

Private companies have stepped up on their own to increase production and, where they can, to modify operations to make products that are needed, the chamber said.


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