Today On CNN, Schumer Renews Call For The Trump Administration To Fully Invoke Defense Production Act And Appointment Of Top Military Official To Oversee Both Production And Distribution Of Medical Equipment And Supplies To Help Fight Coronavirus

April 4, 2020

Washington, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today in an interview with CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield renewed his call for the Trump administration to fully invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA) and to appoint a top military official to lead the federal government’s production and distribution effort to get equipment and medical supplies to the frontline health care workers and first responders who need them. Below is a transcript of Leader Schumer’s CNN interview:

FREDERICKA: With me now, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. Good to see you.

SEN. SCHUMER: Good morning, Fredricka. Hope you and your family and loved ones are safe.

FREDERICKA: We're doing well. I hope you are as well. The governor tried to be very optimistic there saying that while some of the numbers are going down in New York City, you know, some of the numbers are going up in Long Island. He's get something assistance from the state of Oregon and even a shipment from China. Are you optimistic, even though this apex the governor is talking about is still a week possibly away? How optimistic are you about New York, your home state, being prepared?

SEN. SCHUMER: We New Yorkers are a tough breed and we'll overcome it no matter what happens. And I can't predict how long it will be. I'll leave that to the medical experts. But I can tell you one thing, and this is what I'm focused on. We do not have the supplies we need. The governor, the mayor, they're reaching out all over the place, all over the country and all over the world to get what they need. But just in the last day, I heard from hospitals who didn't have ventilators. Police officers who don't have masks. Nurses, medical technicians on the front lines risking their lives who don't have PPE. So the system that the federal government has put in place is not working, plain and simple. It's not adequate.

Our mayors, our governors, I spoke to our hospital heads. They have to run big hospitals. At this point they're spending hours each day reaching out to private contractors, to other countries even to get supplies. So here's what we need. We need the president to invoke the Defense Production act. It dates from the Korean war, president Truman. And the DPA allows a military leader, the military, to take over the factories and supply chains and then the same person can distribute the materials, the PPEs, the ventilators, the masks, I heard in Michigan, they're short of swabs, to all over, to where exactly it is needed. This is what the president should do. I talked to him a few days ago. We all know what happened there. But yesterday, I talked to Vice President Pence yesterday afternoon. I talked to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows yesterday evening. And they seem very seriously to consider this.

We are not going to overcome this supply problem unless we have someone, a military person in charge. Someone who knows command and control. Someone who knows logistics. Someone who knows quartermastering and then the president has to back up this military person with all the authority of his office. When the military person says factory "A," you make a million swabs this week. You can do it. And then, I am going to take those swabs and send them to Michigan and New York, say, where they're short of them. That's what's going to solve this. We're at the epicenter as the governor said in New York. But it's going to spread to other places, and they're going to have the same supply shortages that we have. And those supply shortages make people less healthy, less likely to overcome it, and extend the timeline that you're talking about. So I hope that the president – re-upping my call. I've been doing this for two weeks. To invoke the DPA because right now the supply system is scattershot, catch as catch can. It's a spectacle that hospital chiefs, mayors and governors have to be calling private companies and countries across the world to get the supplies that we should have ready and available to them.

FREDERICKA: So what is your assessment as to why the president has exercised portions of the defense production act but has not utilized appointment of a military czar, as you put it, military leadership. If you're saying in your conversation, the vice president is receptive to it, what is it going to take, who is going to be able to get at the president to make that selling point?

SEN. SCHUMER: I called the president two weeks ago and suggested this. And he said, we should do it. And he said to someone, he must have been in the oval office, let's get it done. But then a few hours later, he said he wasn't going to do it. I don't know why.