President Joe Biden’s repeated use of the Defense Production Act, a decades-old law that grants the president broad authority to increase the manufacturing output of critical items in a national emergency, has drawn the scorn of Republicans.
According to The Hill, the DPA has been a tool used in the Trump administration since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Biden has been using it for other issues not pressingly related to national security.
Recently, the Hill reports Biden used the DPA to boost the production of goods used in the manufacturing of solar panels. While environmentalists and climate activists hailed the move as a bold step in combating climate change, Republicans saw it as overstepping the law’s provisions.
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., criticized Biden, saying he abused a law originally designated for defense purposes. The law, first authorized in 1950 as a response to the Korean War, gave the president and executive branch the authority to order businesses to focus on the production of a needed good.
Jerry McGinn, executive director of the Center for Government Contracting at George Mason University’s School of Business, asked, “When you get out of a national security space or something like pandemic response, the more that people are going to say, ‘Is this appropriate?'”
“It’s not surprising,” he added. “Republicans are going to criticize a Democrat or vice versa. But the authority’s very clear, it’s got to be essential for national defense, and are solar panels essential for national defense? So that’s where we have the debate on this.”
But the White House has said invoking the DPA for solar panel production is an important first step toward the administration’s clean energy goals.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday that the “steps we’re taking today are in response to an urgent need of — to grow the domestic clean energy economy and strengthen U.S. energy security. They are part of the president’s multipronged approach to accelerating the transition to a cleaner, a clean energy future made right here in America.”
Biden has also invoked the DPA to speed up the production of baby formula amid a nationwide shortage. Earlier this year, Biden also used the DPA to boost production of electric vehicle batteries — a motive in alignment with his administration’s agenda to make electric cars account for half of all new vehicle sales by 2030.