WASHINGTON, DC (NEXSTAR) — The coronavirus crisis has shown members of Congress how critical medical and pharmaceutical supply chains are to the country’s national security.
Rep. French Hill, R-AR, said Americans have been caught off guard by recent problems with these networks.
“We need to not ever have that happen again,” Hill said. “We’ve just realized the past two months that a lot of our supply chain is offshore, it has limited number of participants and sometimes, they’re all in China.”
Hill has introduced a bill that would amend the Defense Production Act, a powerful emergency law that allows a military leader to take over factories and supply chains and distribute the products where needed.
Hill said the legislation would make the U.S. more prepared for the next public health emergency. It would treat medical supplies, like ventilators, protective gear, even vaccines, the same way it treats defense supplies needed to build planes, ships and missiles.
“My bill would make sure the President has a strategic plan in place to do that going forward, where we have a little less mystery about this,” Hill said.
President Trump has triggered the DPA to speed up the production of ventilators domestically and stop masks from going overseas, but some on Capitol Hill have called for a more widespread invocation of the law.
Some of Hill’s Democratic colleagues in the House, like Rep. Terri Sewell, D-AL, agree with him that Congress should act to give the DPA more teeth in the future.
“Ensuring that not only can we manufacture the equipment we need, but we also can preserve the prescriptions and drugs that we need stateside,” Sewell said.
Hill plans to build support for the bill when Congress returns to the Capitol in the weeks ahead.