Trump invokes Defense Production Act to require GM to produce ventilators

Coronavirus

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 26: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic in the press briefing room of the White House on March 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote Friday on the $2 trillion stimulus package to combat the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

President Trump exercised his authority under the Defense Production Act to require General Motors to “act, perform, and prioritize contracts or orders for the number of ventilators” deemed necessary by the health and human services secretary amid the coronavirus pandemic. The move marks the first time the president has substantively exercised his authority under the law to encourage the production of much-needed medical equipment.

Health care workers, particularly those in New York, are already reporting a serious shortage of ventilators, and Democrats and Republicans alike have been urging the president to use his authority to ramp up the production of ventilators, masks, respirators and other needed equipment and supplies. The Defense Production Act authorizes the president to require companies to sign contracts or fill orders for products needed for the nation’s defense. It’s unclear how many ventilators HHS Secretary Alex Azar will determine necessary. 

In issuing his executive order directing GM to prioritize the production of ventilators, Mr. Trump accused GM of “wasting” time. For the most part, the president has been relying on the private sector to voluntarily boost production of needed equipment. 

“Today, I signed a Presidential Memorandum directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to use any and all authority available under the Defense Production Act to require General Motors to accept, perform, and prioritize federal contracts for ventilators,” the president said in a statement. “Our negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course. GM was wasting time. Today’s action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives.”

Earlier Friday, Mr. Trump expressed on Twitter that he was losing his patience with GM.

“General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!! FORD, GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!!!! @GeneralMotors@Ford” the president tweeted. 

On Thursday night, Mr. Trump claimed states don’t need need 30,000 or 40,000 ventilators, apparently a response to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo‘s request for 30,000 ventilators. Cuomo, other governors and health care workers have been sounding the alarm about a ventilator shortage. 

“I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to need,” Mr. Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You know, you go to major hospitals, sometimes they have two ventilators. Now all of a sudden they’re saying can we order 30,000 ventilators.

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