On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on President Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act and assume dictatorial powers in the United States. Pelosi wrote:
Right now, shortages of critical medical and personal protective equipment are harming our ability to fight the coronavirus epidemic, endangering front-line workers and making it harder to care for those who fall ill. The president must immediately use the powers of the Defense Production Act to mass produce and coordinate distribution of these critical supplies, before the situation worsens and the shortages become even more dire. There is not a day to lose. We must put more testing, more production equipment and more ventilators into the hands of our frontline workers immediately.
Trump said yesterday that he was only invoking the Defense Production Act so he could use it later in a worst-case scenario.
Pelosi is urging him to use it now. pic.twitter.com/DCi5SsSfCz
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) March 19, 2020
On Wednesday, Trump signed the act, but also tweeted, “I only signed the Defense Production Act to combat the Chinese Virus should we need to invoke it in a worst case scenario in the future. Hopefully there will be no need, but we are all in this TOGETHER!”
I only signed the Defense Production Act to combat the Chinese Virus should we need to invoke it in a worst case scenario in the future. Hopefully there will be no need, but we are all in this TOGETHER!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 18, 2020
ABC News explained how much power the act would give Trump; as Ed Morrissey of HotAir commented, “it’s basically authority to impose a wartime command economy.” Here’s how ABC News described the powers given the president:
The executive branch, under this law, can essentially dictate industry production and force companies to sign contracts telling them how to allocate materials. The president can also impose wage and price controls, settle labor disputes and control consumer and real estate credit, among other authorities given by the law.
Yet private industry is already rising to the occasion. As Forbes reported on Wednesday:
General Motors Corp. Chairman and CEO Mary Barra reportedly suggested to top White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow, the automaker could build hospital ventilators while its plants are idled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking on Fox News Wednesday, Kudlow said he spoke with executives from two of the three Detroit-based automakers, then apparently alluded to Barra when he explained, “one of them told me even while the men and women may be off for two weeks due to the virus she’s gonna try to call them back so they can produce ventilators and they might even ask them to do it on a voluntary basis for civic and patriotic reasons.”
Reuters reported on Thursday:
General Electric’s healthcare unit said on Thursday it was hiring more people and shifting current employees to ramp up production of ventilators as the global coronavirus pandemic leads to surge in demand for medical equipment. The company said its actions came in response to an unprecedented demand for medical equipment. GE did not disclose how many additional ventilators it expected to produce.
After Trump signed the Defense Production Act, Democratic Congressman Andy Levin of Michigan stated, “Invoking the Defense Production Act of 1950 was a great step, and I thank the president. It is essential that the president make urgent use of all authorities granted to him by the Act to direct the domestic production of supplies needed to address the COVID-19 pandemic.”
He continued, “I will continue to press President Trump and his administration to call the CEOs of companies relevant to our most urgent needs into the White House, give them precise production quantities and dates they have to meet, and give them 48 hours to present a plan to produce what we need. If they cannot provide satisfactory plans, the Defense Production Act gives the president powers to take additional steps to make sure we do what we have to do to protect the American people in the greatest public health crisis in a century. “There is not one minute to spare. We cannot let partisanship, ego or the aim to score political points get in the way of what we must do to save lives. Let’s get this done.”