In a letter to President Joe Biden this week, U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) led 24 other senators in supporting full use of the Defense Production Act (DPA) to ramp up the production and stockpiling of medical, testing and protective equipment for use in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Supply chain issues have been a continuous issue in efforts to combat the virus and contain its spread. The previous administration tapped the DPA to counteract this, but only on a limited basis, against the wishes of Senate Democrats. The Biden administration signaled its intent to use the act even before Biden was in the White House, however, buoying Democrats’ hopes that manufacturers could be given greater access to affordable, domestically sourced raw materials even as they are asked to create more.
“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,” the senators wrote. “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. Given the current lack of a national vaccine plan, we need to use every tool available to make up the ground we have lost.”
The senators also noted that the DPA could further regulate vaccine distribution by ensuring companies do not charge for the vaccine in the future. Further, it could allow for enhanced production of materials needed for vaccines in future pandemics, build domestic supplies and capabilities of raw materials and PPE — the reliance on foreign supply chains for the latter was particularly felt early in the pandemic — and buoy American manufacturers by incentivizing products made in America.
“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 senators wrote.