WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, is upset that Senate Democrats have objected to her efforts to call up and pass bipartisan legislation that would help ensure manufacturers and distributors are able to produce respirators during the current COVID-19 epidemic. Fischer says:
“The Senate had an opportunity to act quickly and pass my bipartisan bill to address the shortage of respirators facing our country during this coronavirus outbreak. As a result of the objection from Senate Democrats, the health and safety of our health care providers and first responders is at risk. I will continue to seek a way forward for this critical legislation.”
Current law, via the PREP Act, allows the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue a declaration granting limited liability protection to manufacturers and distributors of certain countermeasures against diseases—which includes respirators—when the government calls up that equipment to be used in the event of an outbreak or epidemic. During these times, liability is taken on by the federal government. However, respirators which are overseen by NIOSH—an office within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—are not currently eligible for that protection.
This legislation, introduced last week by Senator Fischer and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), would amend the PREP Act to ensure that all NIOSH-certified respirators are eligible for the same federal liability protections as other medical products, vaccines, and drugs.
Representatives Don Bacon (R-Neb.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), and Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), introduced corresponding legislation in the House of Representatives.