President Biden repeatedly turns to the Defense Production Act (DPA), a decades-old law that gives the president broad authority to increase production of critical materials in national emergencies.
The Darfur Peace Agreement has been an aspect of the pandemic response since the Trump administration, but Biden has turned to it for other uses. Most recently, Biden has used it five times to boost domestic production of goods used to make solar panels.
Environmental groups and climate lawmakers have hailed the move as the kind of bold action needed to tackle climate change, at a time when Biden’s legislative climate agenda has faltered in Congress.
At the same time, it drew some criticism from Republicans, with Senator Pat Tomey (R-Pen) accusing Biden of abusing a law initially passed in response to the Korean War for defensive purposes. This policy, first approved in 1950, allows the president and the executive branch to order private businesses to focus on producing the desired good.
“When you get out of a national security space or something like pandemic response, people will say more, ‘Is this appropriate? Jerry McGinn, executive director of the Center for Governmental Enterprise at George Mason University School of Business.
Not surprisingly, Republicans criticize Democrats, or vice versa. But the power is very clear, it should be necessary for national defense, are solar panels necessary for national defense? This is where we discuss this matter.
The White House described the DPA’s recall of solar panels as an important first step toward the administration’s clean energy goals when asked how it wouldn’t affect summer electricity rates.
“The steps we are taking today are in response to an urgent need — to grow the domestic clean energy economy and enhance energy security in the United States. They are part of the president’s multi-pronged approach to accelerating the transition to a cleaner, clean energy future that is being achieved,” White House Press Secretary Karen Jean-Pierre told reporters Monday. Here in America.”
Biden also invoked the law to speed up production of materials used to make infant formula amid nationwide shortages, after receiving bipartisan calls from Congress to do so. Earlier this year, Biden used it to boost production of electric car batteries as the administration looks to further advance its clean energy agenda.
Former President Trump has been criticized for not moving fast enough to call in the DPA at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to force production of medical equipment. He finally used it in March 2020 to ask GM to ramp up production of life-saving ventilators despite calls from the business community not to use emergency powers to target the private sector.
Biden has been more aggressive in his use of the law.
On his first day in the White House, Biden signed a blanket executive order for federal agencies to use the DPA to ramp up supplies of protective equipment, COVID-19 vaccines, testing and other supplies needed to fight the pandemic.
The administration has regularly used the law to ramp up rapid at-home testing, which according to White House counts increased from 24 million last August to more than 300 million in December.
“It’s an incredibly important authority, and the pandemic has demonstrated its power in a very positive way. They were able to use that to get all kinds of things into the contract. It didn’t directly impact vaccine development, but in terms of masks and production, it had a huge impact,” McGinn said. .
McGinn also said that while the pandemic has put DPA in the spotlight, it has also been used by presidents in the past to great effect but less publicity.
Former President Obama in 2012 invoked the Darfur Peace Agreement to accelerate the development of biofuels for military and commercial use, something Republicans at the time criticized as a move to advance his green energy agenda.
The wartime meter was used by former President George W. Bush in 2003 to provide the British Army with GPS receivers during the Iraq War, and was used by Bush and former President Clinton in early 2001 to ensure emergency supplies of natural gas flow into California facilities to avoid power outages.
The president can also delegate DPA powers to agency heads, as happened in 2017 when FEMA used it for manufactured housing units, food, bottled water, and post-hurricane restoration projects in Puerto Rico.
McGinn cautioned that widespread use of the DPA could be inappropriate and lead to the law being the subject of partisan bickering.
“The problem is, since the pandemic, people have realized, ‘Wow, DPA is a thing,'” he said. But the challenge is that if we start using it for things that it doesn’t really suit, it becomes more political and you can create problems for using it in the future.
“That’s my biggest concern, you don’t want to undermine something so effective by using it when it’s inappropriate.”
The DPA was last adopted in the 2019 defense policy legislation and will expire in 2025, meaning lawmakers will need to renew it again in the coming years. On Monday, Tommy suggested that Congress curtail the law if the Biden administration continues to use it for non-defense actions.
In his move on Monday, Biden directed the Department of Energy to use the DPA to boost domestic production of solar panel parts, building insulation, heat pumps, power grid infrastructure and equipment used to produce clean energy-generated fuels.
Jan Su, director of the left-leaning Center for Biological Diversity’s Energy Equity Program, said the actions will stimulate investment in and manufacturing of these specific products.
She said Biden could also use the DPA to spur growth in the electric transportation sector by targeting electric vehicle charging stations, electric buses and other green modes of transportation.
“Advertising is a game changer. On a macro level, we really see him flexing his muscles over his executive powers, which he hasn’t done yet,” Su said. “That’s a big change at Sea in terms of its approach to climate.”
Rachel Frazen and Zach Bodrick contributed.
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