Several GOP lawmakers are clamoring for the great reopening of the American economy as the coronavirus pandemic continues to bring the nation to an economic standstill and the push to reopen the country intensifies from coast to coast.
President Trump has stated that his administration is exploring a path to reopen the economy, possibly in coming weeks in certain states. Meanwhile, several GOP lawmakers warn that the ramifications of keeping the economy shut down could, in some ways, have effects that are just as devastating as the virus itself as over 16 million Americans find themselves unemployed.
According to Politico, House Republicans have been discussing the issue during weekly conference calls and are eager for the administration to take steps to reopen the country.
“It should have happened yesterday,” Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) said, according to Politico. “I’m trying to use every bully pulpit I can to make my case.”
The calls will continue on Wednesday. GOP leaders are expected to speak to Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow and Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, according to the outlet.
“The president was very unfairly criticized for just [saying] what is indisputably true: ‘We need to make sure the cure isn’t worse than the disease.’ And I am concerned that the cure is worse than the disease,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI.) said, according to Politico.
“If you’re a carpenter, every nail you see, the solution’s a hammer,” he added. “The same may be true for epidemiologists.”
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) added that the U.S., at this point, is “extremely unlikely to overwhelm our hospital capacities” and added that the place the country is in currently, virtually locked down, is simply “unsustainable.”
“In fact, in a matter of days and in some cases the moment may even have passed, that we’ve reached the peak of the rate of infections,” he stated. “This is a completely unsustainable place we’re in.”
While the sense of urgency remains, GOP lawmakers also acknowledge that the reopening must be done in a strategic, safe way. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), for instance, believes the U.S. must see a sustained decline in the number of cases over a two-week period.
“We really need to ramp up testing. And only then will people have the confidence to go out,” she said.
Rep. Peter King (R-NY) also acknowledged that the reopening cannot be done overnight.
“We can’t do it overnight. There’s no magic answer,” he said. “But we have to be focused on that. Just like we need to be focused on finding a vaccine.”
Others, though, stress that the reopening of the economy needs to be met with a similar sense of urgency.
“I’m a big fan of Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx. I think they’ve done a great job. But their job is public health,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) explained. “We also need to realize that we can’t continue like this for a long time without there being enormous personal and economic consequences.”
Both Toomey and Johnson have spoken to Trump about how to get the economy moving again. Toomey wants to quickly but cautiously ramp up idled businesses where social distancing is possible. Johnson worries that lockdowns of factories and food producers could leave stores with bare shelves.
Some House Freedom Caucus members wrote a letter to Trump over the Easter weekend voicing concern that virus-related restrictions on public gatherings infringe on Americans’ religious freedoms. The conservative group has another letter in the works about restarting the economy. Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) is crafting his own plan, which he intends to send to the president, and has said a decision must be made this month about reopening.
The push to reopen county comes as workers across the country, the majority of whom are under some form of a stay-at-home order, begin to voice their impatience. A protest, organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition (MCC) and dubbed “Operation Gridlock,” is expected to take place at Michigan’s Capitol Building Wednesday. According to local reports, protesters plan to drive around the capitol and create a traffic jam as a symbol of their disagreement with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) stringent stay-at-home orders, which have resulted in the ban of sales of goods and services deemed “nonessential,” as well as restrictions on “crossing the street to visit with neighbors or driving to see friends, among other things,” per USA Today.
“We are all concerned for those afflicted with COVID 19. Yes, many of the personal behaviors we have been reminded to use are good practices. Wash your hands. Cover your cough. Stay home if you are sick,” MCC stated on its website.
“That said, Michiganders are fed up!” it added.
Trump on Tuesday signaled that the reopening of the economy is on the horizon.
“The day will be very close. … It’s going to be very, very close, maybe even before the date of May 1st,” Trump said, explaining that the reopening could vary state by state, as some are in better shape than others.
“Actually there are over 20 that are in extremely good shape, and we think we’re going to be able to get them open fairly quickly, and others will follow,” the president said.
“We’re all set, as I said, the governors will be opening up their states, they’re going to declare when,” he added. “Some can open very, very shortly, if not almost immediately.”