WTOP, MITCHELL MILLER
Members of Congress, including several lawmakers from Virginia, are requesting an investigation into what they say has been “mismanagement” of medical materials that should be going to states that badly need them to fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Virginia Reps. Gerry Connolly, Don Beyer and Abigail Spanberger have written to the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, formally asking for the probe. They question the stocking and deployment of materials from the Strategic National Stockpile by HHS.
“The Stockpile has failed our states, despite months of warning from experts about the risk of an outbreak in the United States,” the lawmakers wrote. “As such, we have grave concerns about how HHS has maintained the stockpile, prepared for known potential threats and responded to states’ needs as they confront the pandemic.”
Elected officials in Virginia, Maryland and states across the country have said that the federal government has failed to adequately fulfill requests for medical supplies, including personal protective equipment for health care workers and ventilators for patients with COVID-19.
The congressional members, in a letter sent this week, noted that the national stockpile is now depleted, essentially leaving states to fend for themselves.
“The federal government’s lack of preparedness is completely unacceptable,” the letter states.
The lawmakers, all Democrats, also complained that President Donald Trump has been “inexplicably reluctant” to fully utilize the Defense Production Act to get private companies to produce needed medical equipment.
The president on Monday again defended his administration’s handling of the crisis and complained about what he said was unfair media coverage.
“Everything we did was right,” he said at the daily Coronavirus Task Force briefing.
But Trump has been criticized for not taking the spread of COVID-19 more seriously earlier in the year, when needed medical supplies, testing and other issues could have been more fully addressed.
The letter sent by members of Congress was also signed by Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., and Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif.
The push to get more information on the federal government’s handling of medical supplies comes as Congress works on new legislation to deal with the health and economic fallout from the pandemic.
Connolly and the chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., have sent a letter to the congressional leadership, outlining plans for more financial help for federal workers. Among their proposals: providing up to $2,000 per month per child for federal workers who have been required to report to their workplaces during the pandemic.
It’s not clear when Congress will be able to consider the next major piece of legislation.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced on Monday that the House will not convene until May 4, at the earliest.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell followed suit on Tuesday, announcing the upper chamber won’t convene until next month as well.
“As the country continues working together to flatten the curve, following the advice of health experts, the full Senate is not expected to travel back to Washington, D.C., sooner than Monday, May 4,” McConnell said in a statement.