March 23, 2020

Amid Widening Pandemic, Warren Leads Call for Chamber of Commerce to Cease Lobbying Efforts that are Endangering Public Health and the Economic Needs of Millions of Americans

New report indicates the Chamber has successfully lobbied against the President’s use of the Defense Production Act to address the huge shortfall of medical equipment needed to treat COVID-19 patients

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. -- United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawai'i), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) sent a letter to the Chamber of Commerce demanding answers as to why the organization is lobbying against President Trump's use of the Defense Production Act -- an extraordinarily powerful tool that would allow him to quickly harness and use America's technological and manufacturing might to address this public health crisis and provide needed equipment for hospitals, health care providers, and first responders. Their letter asks the Chamber to cease their lobbying efforts against measures to address the COVID-19 pandemic and place the economic and public health needs of hundreds of millions of American families above its members.

The Chamber's actions come as the pandemic grows exponentially, and as millions of Americans are putting their health at risk to provide medical care, and stock and deliver food, cleaning supplies, and the basics of everyday life to American families under "shelter in place" requirements, including in Massachusetts where Governor Charlie Baker today ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses and issued a stay at home advisory.

President Trump publicly stated that he would not use his powers under the Defense Production Act, incorrectly claiming that companies were voluntarily "making so many products" as an explanation for his refusal to act. However, the New York Times reported today that, "the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the heads of major corporations have lobbied the administration against using the act. ...Mr. Trump and the director of his national economic council, Larry Kudlow, as well as Mr. Kushner, were persuaded by those arguments."

"This report, if true, is shameful, revealing that the Chamber is actively working against efforts to address the urgent national COVID-19 pandemic, and is placing the short-term desires of its members above the economic and public health needs of hundreds of millions of American families," the lawmakers wrote. "You owe the public an explanation for this behavior. We urge you to cease your lobbying efforts against measures to address the COVID-19 pandemic."

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, Senator Warren has pressed the Trump Administration to respond effectively to deliver the robust set of resources needed to address this emergency, including a faster expansion in diagnostic testingmedical supplies and care capacity, and support for state and local governments to be able to help people quickly. A week ago, she put out a plan to respond to the economic hardships brought on by the coronavirus crisis -- proposing at least $750 billion in stimulus money to save our economy and help families. Building on the proposals she laid out, she worked to ensure student loan debt cancellation and a critical increase in Social Security and disability benefits are a core part of the stimulus package Democrats negotiate. Senator Warren was also the first to lay out a detailed list of conditions tied to any taxpayer-funded bailouts, such as requiring companies to keep workers on payroll, implement a $15 minimum wage, permanently ban stock buybacks, prohibit CEO bonuses, and more. Her efforts are focused on ensuring stimulus money reaches the people who need it most in this crisis -- workers and families -- and bringing much-needed structural change to our economy.