MORGANTOWN — The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill spurred by COVID-19 medical supply challenges; Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., was one of the sponsors.
The bill is called the Strengthening America’s Strategic National Stockpile Act (HR 3635) and passed overwhelmingly 397-22, with the 22 votes against all from Republicans. McKinley’s West Virginia GOP colleagues Alex Mooney and Carol Miller both voted for it.
In a release about the bill, McKinley’s office said it aims to reduce America’s dependence on China and other foreign nations for essential medical supplies needed to fight public health crises like COVID-19.
“One of the main lessons learned from COVID-19 is that we rely on nations like China far too much for important products,” McKinley said. “The American people should not have to beg rival nations for essential health care needs like masks, testing swabs and medicine. This legislation will not only make America more secure and prepared for future emergencies, it will bolster American manufacturing and create good jobs.”
Lead sponor Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., said that when Michigan and other states called on the Strategic National Stockpile “for urgently needed masks, gloves and other protective gear, what we got was nowhere close to what we needed. We can never again let our country be dependent on foreign suppliers like China for the equipment we need when crises like this pandemic strike.”
The bill, she said, will boost domestic production of critical medical supplies; reduce our dependence on foreign manufacturers; give our frontline workers the protection they need for future crises; and improve maintenance and oversight of our stockpile.
Among its provisions it will:
- Improve maintenance of and transparency around the stockpile to ensure its supplies are in good working order and ready to use if and when a crisis hits;
- Boost manufacturing of critical supplies in America to diversify sources of PPE and partner with industry to replenish existing stocks;
- Provide more federal resources to states to expand or maintain their own strategic stockpiles;
- Bring transparency to stockpile allocations by requiring a report to Congress on all requests for stockpile supplies during the pandemic and the response to each request.
The bill was sent to the Senate, where it was read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Additionally, Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., introduced the Senate version this summer.
The Dominion Post contacted Sens. Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin for their views on the legislation. Capito’s office said she supports it.
Manchin’s office said the inquiry from The Dominion Post was the first they’d heard of the bill’s passage. However, Manchin “has been very active in addressing the supply chain issues.”
During recent hearings, his office said, Manchin questioned HHS Xavier Secretary Becerra, Dr. Anthony Fauci and National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins on domestic supply chain issues.
Manchin’s office noted that there is $10 billion from the American Rescue Plan that has yet to be spent to help procure PPE and other vital supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic.