Congressman Crow sponsors bill forcing Trump to compel production of medical equipment

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AURORA | As pleas from health care workers for more personal protective equipment grow and hospitals expect a surge of ill COVID-19 patients in the coming weeks, Aurora Congressman Jason Crow is pushing a bill that would compel President Donald Trump to use his authority to acquire more supplies.

Crow and California Congresswoman Katie Porter introduced the Frontline Health Care Workers Assistance Act on Thursday. 

If passed it would direct Trump to use the Defense Production Act, which was approved in 1950 and reauthorized last in 2018, to purchase 300 million N95 respirator masks within 24 hours, waive limitations in the Defense Production Act related to dollar limits and a 30-day waiting period for large orders. 

It would also require a bevy of federal agencies to report medical supply needs using “comprehensive data.” 

The situation is getting increasingly dire, Crow told the Sentinel Thursday, after a phone call with health officials from across his district.

“We need to listen to the advice of the health officials and not the president,” he said. 

One data analysis has determined Colorado is ill-prepared to handle the increased number of novel coronavirus patients hospitals could soon be seeing. 

“Colorado has an average of 1.92 hospital beds and 2.52 certified physicians per 1,000 people, ranking it with 6th-worst hospital capacity in the nation,” according to Kaiser Family Foundation data analyzed by QuoteWizard.

Trump has cited the Defense Production Act in two executive orders, but some are critical that the president hasn’t gone far enough to get supplies, such as masks and ventilators, to needy health workers.

“The Defense Production Act is in full force, but haven’t had to use it because no one has said NO! Millions of masks coming as back up to States,” Trump said on Twitter Tuesday, while New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference on the same day he couldn’t understand the president’s reluctance to utilize the act.

The Defense Production Act of 1950 was signed by President Harry S. Truman amid concerns about supplies and equipment during that war. It’s been invoked multiple times since then to help the federal government for a range of emergencies including war, hurricanes and terrorism prevention.

Trump, referring to himself as a “wartime president,” said he would use the law’s powers “in case we need it” as the country braces for an expected surge in the number of coronavirus cases and a strain on resources.

Crow said the global coronavirus pandemic “could not be a more urgent situation.”

“Our health care workers in Colorado and across the country are our nation’s soldiers on the frontline in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Their work is paramount to protecting the health and safety of Americans but as we speak, they face crippling shortages that threaten their health and our national security as we combat this virus,” Crow said in a statement. 

— The Associated Press contributed to this article