Government

Miller-Meeks assigned to House committee that oversees U.S. medical stockpile

Mariannette Miller-Meeks.
Mariannette Miller-Meeks.

Iowa Republican freshman U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks campaigned to revamp the nation’s stockpile of live-saving medicines and medical supplies to better prepare for a pandemic.

Now, the 24-year U.S. Army veteran and former Iowa public health director will sit on the U.S. House committee responsible for it.

Miller-Meeks, an ophthalmologist, was assigned a seat this week on the House Homeland Security Committee, along with the Veterans Affairs and Education and Labor committees.

In a statement, Miller-Meeks said her roles on both will ensure that the University of Iowa, the Iowa City VA Health System, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and its affiliated institutions have a stronger voice in Washington.

“These assignments directly highlight my strengths and experience as well as the priorities I expressed as I sought office: resolving this pandemic and preparing for future pandemics; ensuring the health of our citizens craving more normal human interactions and engagement at home, school, work, church and entertainment venues; safely returning people to work and students to the classroom; making sure that we have a workforce that is well trained and ready for the jobs of the future; and seeing that we have affordable, accessible health care,” Miller-Meeks said in a statement.

“I’m ready to get to work on behalf of Iowans.”

The Homeland Security Committee has legislative jurisdiction over the National Strategic Stockpile.

While campaigning last fall, Miller-Meeks frequently highlighted the stockpile’s value in preparing the country for future pandemics, vowing to draw on her military and public health experience to revamp it and bring manufacturing back from China to address limited domestic medical supplies — including personal protective equipment and pharmaceuticals.

In an August column, Miller-Meeks advocated that Congress quickly consider adopting new rules for federal PPE purchases that restrict the U.S. Department of Defense from purchasing certain products from foreign sources to create “a stable demand for U.S.-made PPE that will incentivize investment in domestic PPE manufacturing.”

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Additionally, Miller-Meeks said testing reagents should be included in the national stockpile and allocated to state hygienic, private and hospital labs for broader-based, decentralized testing — “allowing for quicker isolation and treatment of outbreaks.”

The Biden administration has taken steps to increase production of masks, gowns, respirators, vaccine and testing supplies and other equipment.

Last week, President Joe Biden signed executive orders authorizing the use of the Defense Production Act to accelerate manufacturing and secure supplies necessary for health workers responding to the pandemic. The executive orders direct federal agencies to devise a strategy to restructure and resupply the stockpile after being criticized last spring over a lack of adequate supplies.

Miller-Meeks was provisionally sworn in as a new member of Congress early this month, and has called on the U.S. House to dismiss Democrat Rita Hart’s petition challenging the outcome in the contested race for southeast Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District.

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