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President Trump announced Friday he is appointing his trade adviser Peter Navarro to serve as his national Defense Production Act policy coordinator after using the act to force General Motors to begin making ventilators to treat coronavirus patients.
“He’s a tremendous guy and he will do a fantastic job,” the president said during a press briefing with his coronavirus taskforce at the White House. He said Navarro will serve as the national Defense Production Act coordinator for the federal government.
Also during the press conference, Trump pushed back against Democratic governors – like Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee -- who have criticized the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. “I want them to be appreciative," Trump said.
And he defended his decision to travel to Norfolk, Va., on Saturday to send off a Navy hospital ship headed to the New York City harbor to help hospitals in the country’s largest city deal with the crush of patients impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. A reporter pressed him on whether it was wise to travel as his administration encourages people to stay home to avoid spreading the virus.
“I'm not going to be jumping around in a huddle,” Trump said, adding he’s going because he has “spirit for this country.”
Earlier Friday, Trump said he had directed Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to require General Motors to begin making ventilators under the Defense Production Act to combat the coronavirus pandemic after negotiations with the automaker stalled.
"Our negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but out fight against the virus is too great to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course," Trump said in a statement, adding: "GM was wasting time."
Experts say the U.S. is hundreds of thousands of breathing machines short of what it likely will need to treat a rapidly rising number of COVID-19 patients. New York, Michigan, Louisiana and the state of Washington have been singled out as virus hot spots in the U.S.
After Trump invoked the act, GM said in a statement that it has been working around the clock for more than a week with Ventec and parts suppliers to build more ventilators. The company said its commitment to build Ventec’s ventilators “has never wavered.”
Trump on Friday also signed a more than $2 trillion legislative package to combat the coronavirus pandemic. The legislation sends economic relief to workers and businesses squeezed by restrictions meant to stop the outbreak’s spread after the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the legislation earlier in the day.
The legislation, approved by voice vote despite 11th-hour drama arising from a GOP lawmaker’s objections, amounts to the costliest stimulus plan in U.S. history. It includes checks for most Americans, boosted unemployment aid, help for small business as well as a massive loan fund for corporations – at a time when unemployment is surging at a record pace, a consequence of businesses closing in compliance with social distancing guidelines.
The bill finances a response with a price tag that equals half the size of the entire $4 trillion-plus annual federal budget. The $2.2 trillion estimate is the White House's best guess of the spending it contains.
The legislation would provide one-time direct payments to Americans of $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year and $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child.
Unemployment insurance would be made far more generous, with $600 per week tacked onto regular state jobless payments through the end of July. States and local governments would receive $150 billion in supplemental funding to help them provide basic and emergency services during the crisis.
The legislation also establishes a $454 billion program for guaranteed, subsidized loans to larger industries in hopes of leveraging up to $4.5 trillion in lending to distressed businesses, states, and municipalities. All would be up to the Treasury Department's discretion, though businesses controlled by Trump or immediate family members and by members of Congress would be ineligible.
There was also $150 billion devoted to the health care system, including $100 billion for grants to hospitals and other health care providers buckling under the strain of COVID-19 caseloads.
Fox News’ Marisa Schultz, Louis Casiano and The Associated Press contributed to this report.