More than 50 US lawmakers, including some top Democrats, say the Biden administration must do more immediately to bolster the testing capacity in the country, arguing that he needs to deploy the Defense Production Act (DPA).
“Understanding the complexities of the manufacturing and distribution processes, we respectfully urge that you utilize the full scope of your executive power under Defense Production Act to manufacture enough rapid tests to ensure that each American can take at least one rapid test per week,” they wrote in a letter.
The White House said Monday it has seen a letter from Democrats, and claimed many of the steps called for were already being undertaken by the administration.
"The good news is that we agree and we’re already doing most of what’s in that letter," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
Psaki noted the President had used the DPA earlier this year, and would continue to do so to expand capacity.
"We used the Defense Production Act to drive production of these tests and we’ll do so again when we can accelerate production and delivery of these tests," she said. "We used $3 billion to procure tests, which became a major driver in increasing and expanding the market for tests."
"The President’s plan to procure and distribute 500 million tests to all Americans is in and of itself providing a major stimulus for global production of these tests," she went on.
Among other things, the lawmakers called on the administration to establish a hotline where Americans could access free tests, in addition to the website already announced by the White House for people to order tests online.
Psaki said there would be "more details" on a hotline this week.
More background: The Biden administration signed its first contracts with a Covid-19 test manufacturer as part of Biden's efforts to distribute half a billion free rapid tests throughout the country, a White House official confirmed to CNN last Friday.
Officials have offered few details since Biden announced the endeavor to send free test kits amid a nationwide shortage and surge in new cases. But they expect to launch a website this month where people can sign up for the tests online and then ship them out.
Biden last month announced the purchase of a half-billion at-home rapid Covid-19 tests, one of a series of new steps he unveiled as the country faces a potentially crippling wintertime surge of infections. The 500 million new tests will be made available in January and will reach Americans through the mail, according to the White House.