Coronavirus: White House rejects bipartisan bills to bring US medical supply chain back home

Griffin Connolly
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks in the press briefing room with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Small Business Administrator Jovita Carranza on 2 April, 2020: Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin rejected the idea of using legislation to compel US medical supply companies to bring their manufacturing operations back home so Americans are less reliant on foreign countries for medical equipment during the coronavirus pandemic and future health crises.

Lawmakers from both parties have offered multiple bills in recent weeks that would codify incentives for companies to bring some of their manufacturing of medical supplies back to US soil.

"I don't think we need that in a bill. I think that Americans understand that we want to make sure that critical supplies — we can make [them] in the USA for the USA," Mr Mnuchin said in an interview on Fox Business on Tuesday.

Mr Mnuchin indicated the Trump administration is uniquely positioned to coax medical companies to bring some of their production operations back to the US because protecting and bringing back outsourced US manufacturing jobs has been a centerpiece of Mr Trump's economic message since he began his political career in 2015.

"That's something that's been in the president's agenda from the campaign. That's something we'll continue to execute upon, and I don't think we need legislation to do that. I think companies understand that, and we understand that," he said.

Mnuchin's position — that the federal government doesn't require legislation to compel the production of medical supplies in the US — puts him at odds with lawmakers from both parties who have offered various mechanisms to facilitate the manufacturing in the US of masks, medications, ventilators, and other resources that are in short supply.

A new bipartisan bill from Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., Anthony Brindisi, D-NY, Tom Reed, R-NY, Josh Gottheimer, D-NJ, Will Hurd, R-Texas, Tom Suozzi, D-NY, and Dean Phillips, D-Minn., would require federal agencies responsible for responding to pandemics to procure their stockpile of essential resources, such as medication and personal protective equipment, from only domestic sources by 2025.

“We simply cannot outsource our public safety and national security to foreign nations. We must reconstitute our healthcare and public safety supply chain back to the United States,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement last week.

“Medical products, protective equipment, pharmaceuticals, emergency response equipment, and all other critical items and materials needed to respond to a national emergency must be produced domestically for domestic consumption, especially during a critical, time-sensitive crisis. Our response to the September 11th terror attacks was ‘Never Again.’ We must have that same exact response to COVID-19," Mr Fitzpatrick said.

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