Governors Rip Into Trump’s Federal Government ‘Backup’ Remark

DETROIT, MI-JUNE 14: Michigan Democrat Gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer addresses the 37th United Auto Workers Constitutional Convention June14, 2018 at Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
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April 5, 2020 5:39 p.m.
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Governors across the nation tore into President Trump’s assertion that the federal government is a “backup” for states’ procurement of needed medical supplies amid surging COVID-19 cases, during Sunday morning interviews.

During a White House coronavirus task force briefing on Thursday, Trump argued that states “have to stock up” on key medical supplies that they’re running short of and that the federal stockpile is a “backup” for them.

Four governors refuted that notion during interviews on Sunday morning:

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D)

When asked about Trump blaming states for ventilator shortages on CNN, Pritzker responded that the President “does not understand the word ‘federal.'”

“We have a state Emergency Management Agency, but, if he were right, why would we ever need a Federal Emergency Management Agency? It’s because individual states can’t possibly do what the federal government can do,”Pritzker said. “[States] 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.”

Pritzker also criticized Trump for ignoring intelligence sources in January and February and seeming “not to have acted at all upon it.”

“If they had started in February building ventilators, getting ready for this pandemic, we would not have the problems that we have today,” Pritzker said. “And, frankly, very many fewer people would die.”

Watch Pritzker’s remarks below:

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D)

After telling Fox News Sundays’ Chris Wallace that she’s “grateful” for the 300 ventilators that her state received from the federal government, Whitmer added that she finds the lack of a “national strategy” troubling.

“Not having a national strategy where there is one policy for the country, as opposed to a patchwork based on whomever the governor is, is something that I think is creating a more porous situation where COVID-19 will go longer and more people will get sick and sadly more lives may get lost,” Whitmer said. “And that’s precisely why I think we all have to do our jobs. We’re not one another’s enemy.”

Whitmer said that combating the spread of COVID-19 involves “all hands on deck.”

“The enemy is COVID-19 and it has to be all hands on deck from the federal level to the state level to the local level,” Whitmer said. “And that’s precisely what we’re trying to do because COVID-19, as I said, doesn’t discriminate on party line or state line and that’s why we have to have a national strategy and we all have to work on the same team.”

Watch Whitmer’s remarks below:

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D)

Much like Whitmer’s sentiments, Inslee told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd that it’s “ludicrous” to “not have a national effort in this” despite his state having “good communications” with Vice President Mike Pence and the CDC.

Inslee particularly took aim at Trump’s “backup” remark.

“To say ‘we’re a backup’ — I mean, the Surgeon General alluded to Pearl Harbor. Can you imagine if Franklin Delano Roosevelt said: ‘I’ll be right behind you, Connecticut. Good luck building those battleships,'” Inslee said. “Look, we need a national mobilization of the manufacturing base of the United States, as we’d started on December 8, 1941.”

Inslee went on to argue the need to “nationally mobilize” by using the Defense Production Act to ramp up the amount of test kits.

“We don’t have enough test kits by far in my state or anywhere in the United States,” Inslee said. “So we governors, Republicans and Democrats, have been urging the President to do what he should which is if he wants to be a wartime president, be a wartime president. Show some leadership. Mobilize the industrial base of the United States. That’s what we need.”

Watch Inslee’s remarks below:

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R)

Although he didn’t directly take aim at Trump, Arkansas’ Republican governor told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd that he’d “like to see a better way” to procure key medical supplies.

When asked about his state being outbid in acquiring ventilators, Hutchinson admitted that it’s been “difficult.”

“Well it’s difficult, and we have had circumstances that we’re trying to collect our PPE, our protective masks and we’ve been outbid by another state after we had the order confirmed, so yes, that has been challenging for us,” Hutchinson said.

After acknowledging that the federal government has said “we’re your backstop” and that states are expected to “get out there and compete,” Hutchinson argued that “it literally is a global jungle that we’re competing in now.”

Asked if he thinks that’s the way it should be, Hutchinson replied “no” and that he’d “like to see a better way.”

“But that’s the reality in which we are. We’ve put in $75 million to do our procurement and we’ll work through this,” Hutchinson said. “The federal government has made it clear they are the backstop and if we need more ventilators right now, they’re going to be going to the hot spots: New York and California.”

Hutchinson added that although he’s been assured “if we need ventilators in Arkansas, they’re going to be there,” his state isn’t “waiting on that.”

“We’re going out on the marketplace. We’re trying to buy ventilators,” Hutchinson said. “You know, whether it should or shouldn’t, that is where we are right now.”

Watch Hutchinson’s remarks below:

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