Rep. Porter Proposal to Ensure Emergency Medical Supplies Are Delivered On Time, at a Fair Price, Included in Coronavirus Relief Bill
Transparency provisions in House Democrats’ coronavirus relief package will require Trump Administration to publish orders placed under the Defense Production Act
Washington, March 25, 2020
WASHINGTON—Congresswoman Katie Porter (CA-45) has secured a provision in House Democrats’ coronavirus relief legislation that would increase accountability for the government in ordering emergency medical supplies. The measure, included in legislation under consideration by the Financial Services Committee, would require emergency government orders for medical supplies to be put online in a public, and easily accessible format.
“This public health crisis demands strong leadership from our leaders and accountability to the American people,” Congresswoman Porter said. “Taxpayers need to know that emergency medical supplies will make it on time to where they’re most needed, and that we’re paying a fair price—not lining the pockets of corporate special interests.”
From World War II, to the housing crisis, to the Coronavirus, there has never been a shortage of private companies that would put profits over people, and use a national emergency to try and get rich,” said Congresswoman Porter. “I hope that any would-be robber barons will think twice before trying to use this crisis to get rich, knowing their contracts will be online for all the world to see.”
Under the Defense Production Act (DPA), the President can instruct private companies to make critical medical supplies, such as facemasks, gowns, and ventilators, but the original law does not include any requirements to make those contracts public. As of early March, the Department of Health and Human Services estimated that the U.S. has only about 1% of the N95 masks it would need for a “full-blown” pandemic, which would require up to 3.5 billion N95 masks over a year.
Contrary to the President’s statements, the DPA does not permit the nationalization of U.S. businesses. Rather, it puts the federal government in a position to coordinate the production of supplies by private manufacturers and get items at a fair price. This avoids competition between individual states, which can drive up costs, and result in supplies going to the highest bidder, rather than where they are needed most.
Congresswoman Porter has been a leader in responding to the coronavirus emergency. On January 28, 2020, she was one of the first to bring attention to COVID-19 when she led the call for a Congressional briefing from the CDC. In a committee hearing, Porter’s tough questioning secured a commitment from the CDC Director that testing would be free for Americans who need it, regardless of insurance. She also called on the Administration to expedite the process for approving labs to run diagnostic tests.