U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton: It Is Time for a National ‘Shutdown’

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 15: Adam Carver, 38, wears a mask to protect against coronavirus whi

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) on Monday called for the United States to take more drastic measures to address the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, including a national “shutdown” that would only exclude “absolutely essential work” and stipends to affected workers to assist them in paying their bills as the pandemic continues to unfold across the globe.

“The time has come for extraordinary measures to combat the Chinese coronavirus. What seems extreme today will seem obvious tomorrow,” Cotton, an outspoken skeptic of the House’s relief package, said on Monday.

Cotton prefaced his proposal by referring to Italy, which now faces a health care crisis after an explosion of coronavirus cases in the nation. The crisis has led to overwhelmed hospitals rationing care for older, sicker patients.

The U.S. senator believes that the United States can effectively “shorten the risk to Americans’ health and the economic hardships” if drastic action is taken now. That includes issuing cash stipends to affected workers and a national “shutdown,” which would stop all “essential activities.”

“Call it what you want—a shutdown, quarantine, curfew, whatever. But only absolutely essential work should continue: groceries, pharmacies, supply transport, health care, electricity, water, sanitation, etc. Everyone else should stay home,” Cotton contends.

“Shut down all but essential government agencies & services. At federal, state, and local levels, officials working to arrest the virus’s spread and mitigate its economic harm (and other essential services like food aid and VA care) must continue working,” he continues. “No one else should.”

He adds:

The military must prepare for defense support of civil authorities, especially at hospitals, nursing homes, etc., & do whatever is needed to increase our capacity to treat patients. Our military plans for exactly this kind of contingency. Our doctors and nurses may need them. As Dr. Anthony Fauci said yesterday, “we’ll be thankful that we overreacted” if we arrest the spread of the virus, preserve hospital capacity, and save lives.

The Arkansas Republican has publicly expressed doubt over the House’s relief package, contending that it “doesn’t go far enough” and “doesn’t go fast enough.”

He told Fox & Friends on Monday:

I and a lot of the other senators who I’ve spoken to over the weekend are worried that we’re not doing enough to get cash in the hands of affected workers and families quickly so we’re going to be focused this week on how to do just that.

“We worry that the bill setting up a new and complicated system relying on businesses giving paid sick leave and then getting a refundable tax credit won’t move quickly enough and could put pressure on those businesses to lay workers off,” he continued.

“We don’t want to see layoffs, we want to see people who are at home, if they have any reason to be home, supported immediately,” he added, stressing that it is an “emergency measure that only needs to last a few weeks if we all take the prudent steps necessary.”

Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang (D) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) are among those who support some form of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a means to address the economic ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic.


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