Trump Orders GM To Produce Ventilators, Invoking Defense Production Act

The memorandum directed at General Motors comes as hospitals say they'll need more ventilators to weather the coronavirus pandemic.

President Donald Trump reversed course Friday and announced that he’s ordering General Motors to produce ventilators needed by hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump took action under the Defense Production Act, a 1950 law that gives the president legal power over industrial production, and signed a memorandum “to require General Motors to accept, perform, and prioritize Federal contracts for ventilators.”

“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,” Trump said in a statement. “GM was wasting time. Today’s action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives.”

Trump signed an executive order allowing for use of the DPA last week, but he has largely resisted pleas for him to use it. He said last weekend that the private sector was already stepping up to make products in low supply ― ventilators, portable X-ray devices, COVID-19 test reagents, masks and gowns ― and that using the DPA would be akin to socialism.

“We’re getting what we need without putting the heavy hand of government down,” he said at a press briefing Sunday.

Governors struggling to acquire ventilators for their states have urged Trump to address the shortage.

“We need the product now,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Sunday. “We have cries from hospitals around the state. I’ve spoken to governors around the country, and they’re in the same situation.”

Others have said the companies they’ve contacted for supplies are selling units to other countries first.

“I’m competing with countries outside the United States to get things that we need,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) said Monday at a press conference.

Trump has dismissed those concerns, and said Thursday that he believed statistics Cuomo has cited about ventilator needs were overblown.

“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” Trump said.

However, projections suggest that the 200,000 in hospitals across the U.S. might not be enough during the pandemic.

GM had already stepped up to help with the demand for ventilators by working with another Detroit-area manufacturer to obtain foam and metal parts and send them to ventilator manufacturers. The fastest way to ramp up production of ventilators is to help existing manufacturers add new facilities rather than to recruit new ones, according to many experts and engineers.

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