April 30, 2020

Merkley, Wyden, Colleagues Announce Legislation to Meet Urgent Medical Supply Shortage

Bill would increase production of critical supplies and ensure they get where needed

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with 44 of their Senate colleagues, have introduced legislation that fills the vacuum left by Trump administration inaction, laying out a framework for an effective, strong, national COVID-19 response.  The bill would direct production of, and add critical oversight and transparency to the supply chain for, vital medical supplies and equipment.

The Medical Supply Transparency and Delivery Act requires the president to utilize all available authorities under the Defense Production Act (DPA) to mobilize a federal response to the pandemic through an equitable and transparent process.

“No worker on the frontline of this crisis should be forced to ration the equipment they need to stay safe while doing their jobs,” Merkley said. “Unfortunately, that’s the nightmare countless Americans are living every day as they take care of our communities. It’s alarming and frustrating that the Trump administration has refused to follow through on its commitment to use the Defense Production Act to meet our workers’ critical supply needs. If the President won’t, Congress must.”

“Since Donald Trump refuses to use the available Defense Production Act to protect essential workers and health care providers, Congress needs to act now,” Wyden said. “This legislation provides the urgent and comprehensive response that front-line workers deserve by producing medical supplies that meet the demands of this public health crisis in Oregon and nationwide.”

Specifically, the Medical Supply Transparency and Delivery Act would require publicly reported national assessments on a weekly basis to determine national critical equipment supply and requirements. These reports would include direct outreach with essential employees and health care workers, and identify industry sectors and manufacturers most ready to fill orders, stockpiles that can be refurbished or repaired, manufacturers that could expand production into PPE and medical supplies, and supplies and equipment that can be redistributed to new hotspots. 

The legislation would also establish an Executive Officer position to oversee acquisition and logistics for COVID-19 equipment production and delivery, and require that officer to issue major purchase orders under the DPA for supplies identified in the assessments, oversee all distribution of critical medical supplies, and make recommendations to the president on increasing national production capacity of supplies.

In addition, the bill would increase transparency regarding the distribution of supplies and equipment; require a comprehensive plan for a COVID-19 vaccine and testing, including viral and antibody testing; and establish an Inspector General to oversee the implementation of the legislation.

The full bill text is available here.

The legislation is supported by 46 Senate Democrats, as well as the AFL-CIO, SEIU, National Nurses United, and United Steelworkers.