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Rep. Banks Criticizes Pelosi for ‘Ignoring’ U.S. Reliance on China

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivers a statement on a coronavirus economic aid package ahead of a vote in the House of Representatives, March 13, 2020. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Representative Jim Banks (R., Ind.) on Monday warned that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s stimulus package does little to address U.S. reliance on Chinese supply chains to deliver crucial medical supplies amid the coronavirus pandemic, despite bipartisan concern on the issue.

In a letter to Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.), Banks suggested that the legislation utilize directives from the Department of Defense to prioritize American medical and drug manufacturing at China’s expense, including the Berry Amendment, which requires the DoD to prioritize the purchase of domestic goods. Banks also cites the Defense Industrial Capabilities Fund, which utilizes national security funding to incentivize the purchase of domestic medical products.

“We can never allow China to dominate our health care supply chain using the same unfair trade practices that it used to dominate so many other industries,” Banks wrote in the letter. “ . . . It would be gravely irresponsible to grant China a level of favorable access to U.S. government contracts equivalent to that of domestic companies.”

President Trump echoed the sentiment during a coronavirus press conference on Tuesday afternoon, saying that the pandemic proves that America “should never be reliant on a foreign country for the means of our own survival.”

In a further statement to National Review, Banks slammed Democrats for ignoring China’s stranglehold on American medical manufacturing in Pelosi’s 1,404-page bill, which does not mention China once.

“Actions speak louder than words — Speaker Pelosi has proven her fondness for expensive performance art, ‘carbon-neutral airlines’ (she’s serious) and diversity commissars; while completely ignoring vulnerabilities in our medical supply chain that endanger American citizens and undermine our sovereignty,” Banks stated.

Over-dependence on Chinese medical supplies has drawn bipartisan concern in recent months. In December, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), along with senators Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), Mitt Romney (R., Utah), and Tim Kaine (D., Va.), sent a letter to secretary of defense Mark Esper to voice concerns over the “overreliance” of Americans on Chinese-manufactured pharmaceuticals.

Earlier this month, the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus — Mark Pocan (D., Wisc.) and Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.) warned the CEOs of major pharmaceutical manufactures of “serious concerns about the consolidation of the supply chain for the manufacturing of active pharmaceutical ingredients and medical supplies in China and other countries that play a large role in the global supply chain.”

A March 12 Senate panel hosted by senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) — who has introduced legislation to reduce China’s supply-chain influence — revealed that “thousands of our generic drugs and even some of the brand name products and perhaps even new therapies for coronavirus may depend on the chemicals that are sourced primarily in China.”

Pelosi’s new stimulus package calls for $1 billion to “support vitally necessary medical counter measures to support a reliable U.S.-sourced supply chain” to help against coronavirus, but makes no mention of limiting China’s influence and shifting medical supply chains back to the U.S.

Banks is proposing a number of amendments to help address the supply-chain shortcomings in the package, which were reviewed by National Review.

“This bill should include Band-Aids for the economic fallout from COVID-19, the purpose of a stimulus package, but it also should permanently fix a systemic threat to every American’s health — our reliance on China for crucial medical products,” Banks said in a statement. “Because of scrutiny generated by coronavirus, a lot of Americans became aware of our overreliance on China, and representatives from both parties began to pay lip-service to the idea of fixing our supply chains.”

Most of the amendments focus on enhancing the authority of the Federal Drug Administration, including requiring American manufacturers of essential medical devices to report any supply chain discontinuances or potential shortages to the FDA. It would also task the FDA with designating “National Centers of Excellence in Continuous Pharmaceutical Manufacturing (NCEs)” which would work to create “a national framework for continuous manufacturing implementation.”

Banks also suggests that drug manufacturers be required to report to the FDA on the amount of active pharmaceutical ingredient in each drug produced overseas — a measure promoted by Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) earlier this month.

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