The legislation currently only has Democratic cosponsors.
From a lack of masks to a lack of ventilators to a lack of tests, the covid-19 pandemic exposed preexisting weaknesses in the U.S. supply chain, when demand suddenly increased during a potentially cataclysmic event.
There’s also been a lack of full transparency about the methods for distributing items from the national stockpile, with the White House doling out much of the limited national stockpile based on connections or swing state status.
Many consider these problems to be major contributors to the U.S. death rate, which currently stands at 105,000 deaths and counting.
What the legislation does
The Medical Supply Transparency and Delivery Act would institute several major reforms to increase centralization of the supply chain, including:
- Mandating weekly reports, publicly released, of national stockpiles for certain medical equipment relative to projected requirements.
- Create a new position, appointed by the Secretary of Defense, to oversee federal purchases and distribution of certain medical equipment.
- This person would also be granted the same authorities as the president under the Defense Production Act of 1950, such as compelling private companies to make certain equipment.
- Publicly posting all locations for distribution of medical equipment, as well as all states’ requests, allowing for a compare-and-contrast between request and result.
The House version was introduced on May 5 as bill number H.R. 6711, by Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO6). The Senate version was introduced the next day as bill number S. 3627, by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).
What supporters say
Supporters argue that a lack of effective national leadership from the White House has proven the need for a more coordinated federal response to this and future pandemics.
“Our health care workers in Colorado and across the country cannot afford a piecemeal approach that fails to provide medical supplies to those most in need and causes states to compete against each other for life-saving equipment,” Rep. Crow said in a press release. “It is incumbent upon Congress to step in and provide the desperately needed action to get supplies to our health care workers.”
“Our legislation will help respond to this public health crisis and prepare for the future by unlocking the full authority and power of the Defense Production Act to scale up nation-wide production of the testing supplies, personal protective equipment, and medical equipment our health care workers need to protect themselves, take care of patients, and save lives,” Sen. Baldwin said in a separate press release.
What opponents say
Opponents counter that this administration has issued effective leadership under the existing protocols, eliminating the need for this and similar legislation.
“Thanks to President Trump and his administration, governors now have visibility as to where their supplies are sent and where they’re received,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said at a press briefing. “And from March 1st through May 10th, this public-private partnership has led to the delivery — and these are extraordinary numbers — of over 113 million N95 respirator masks, nearly half a billion surgical masks, nearly 18 million face shields, and over 12 billion gloves.”
Odds of passage
The House version has attracted 48 cosponsors, all Democrats. It awaits a potential vote in the House Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, or Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
The Senate version has attracted 45 cosponsors: 43 Democrats and two independents. It awaits a potential vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Odds of passage are low in the Republican-controlled chamber.
A version has been included in the HEROES Act, a stimulus bill in response to the pandemic, which passed the House on May 15 but faces difficult odds in the Senate.