Senate Democrats unveiled legislation Wednesday that would put the Pentagon in charge of centralizing production and distribution of the nation’s medical equipment, something Donald Trump has inexplicably declined to do for months.
The Medical Supply Transparency and Delivery Act, which has the support of 46 Senate Democrats, would require the Department of Defense to name a civilian officer to oversee the nation’s supply of the medical gear needed to combat the coronavirus. It also calls for the development of a national testing plan, including both viral testing to determine one’s current status and antibody testing to determine if someone may have already had coronavirus in the past. Finally, the person in charge of the new post would devise a plan for ramping up production and distribution of an eventual vaccine for the novel coronavirus.
According to Reuters, Democrats pushing the bill are calling for it to be included in the Congress’s next coronavirus bill, which is currently being conceived in both the House and Senate. House Democrats are also expected to conceive their own bill.
The major impetus behind the legislation is two-fold: 1) Trump’s failure to take control of the supply chain and centralize distribution has left states and hospitals scrambling to secure medical equipment, creating a chaotic free-for-all in the marketplace; 2) as some states begin to reopen, per capita testing in the U.S. is still dangerously low, upping the urgency for a national testing plan with clear goals and deliverables.
“This White House has also not provided our states with all the essential resources and medical supplies we need to combat this pandemic and conduct widespread testing to identify those who are infected,” said Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin, who sponsored the bill along with Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy. Murphy was characteristically more blunt: “The president’s failure to federalize the medical supply chain has left states operating in a Lord of the Flies environment.”
Democratic lawmakers at the state and federal level (along with some state GOP lawmakers) have been calling for centralized command of the medical supply chain for months, but Trump has explicitly refused to use his inherent powers as president to do it.
The best fit for taking on such a giant task is the Pentagon, which is specifically trained in developing large-scale logistical plans to attack specific threats, in this case a virus attacking the entire homeland.