Apr 5, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Illinois governor: "The president does not understand the word 'federal'"

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that President Trump's comments about the federal government's stockpile of medical equipment suggest he "does not understand the word 'federal.'"

Why it matters: White House adviser Jared Kushner argued at a press briefing last week that the "notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile; it’s not supposed to be state stockpiles that they then use."

  • Trump defended Kushner's comments and said that state governments should have been building their own stockpiles and that the federal government is not "an ordering clerk for the states."
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' website was later edited to match Kushner's comments. Language that suggested that state governments can access the stockpile to support their response efforts was erased.

What he's saying: "If he were right, why would we ever need a Federal Emergency Management Agency?" Pritzker said. "It's because individual states can't possibly do what the federal government can do. We don't have a Defense Production Act."

  • "There's no way that we could stockpile in anticipation of a pandemic that no one anticipated, and yet the federal government is responsible for doing precisely that," he added.

The big picture: The federal stockpile of personal protective equipment is nearly depleted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, leaving the Trump administration and states to compete for supplies in a "freewheeling global marketplace rife with profiteering and price-gouging," the Washington Post reported last week.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has had to release strategies for stretching mask supplies further because the nation can't manufacture enough medical masks or ventilators to meet demand, Axios' Caitlin Owens reports.
  • The guidelines included reusing masks or, in truly desperate times, using bandanas and scarves.
  • The stockpile is also low on ventilators, a breathing device that dozens of governors have been requesting from the federal government in order to treat critical coronavirus patients.

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