Republican senators and representatives have been echoing President Donald Trump’s push to reopen city and state businesses with the goal of restarting the U.S. economy following massive job losses and economic upheaval during the coronavirus epidemic.
Trump initially said that he wanted states to relax their strict social distancing measures on or before May 1. On Monday, he claimed that he alone as president had the power to force states to do so. The following day, he struck a more conciliatory tone during a news conference in the White House Rose Garden.
“I will be speaking to all 50 governors very shortly,” Trump said, “and I will then be authorizing each individual governor of each individual state to implement a reopening and a very powerful reopening plan of their state in a time and a manner as most appropriate.”
Trump reportedly discussed plans with Republican Senator David Perdue of Georgia. Perdue told the local radio station WDAK that he and Trump examined what business sectors and geographical regions might be able to resume operations “gradually over the next few weeks.”
Since then many Republican lawmakers have openly mentioned similar desires.
Eager to help businesses “get ready to restart as soon as possible,” Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri wrote in a Washington Post op-ed, where he shared his view that the federal government should allocate funds for businesses to quickly rehire furloughed workers.
Longing for a return to “something like normal,” Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas told a local radio station. He also said he hoped to see businesses reopening “in the weeks ahead, not months but in the weeks ahead.”
His colleague Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania took a more dire tone when talking to the Pittsburgh TV station WPXI.
“We are doing enormous damage every week that goes by where people are not allowed to work,” Toomey said. “I don’t think we can afford to wait and keep the economy closed until we have a massive scale of antibody testing capability.”
But some of his senatorial colleagues were a little more cautious.
Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio told The Columbus Dispatch that he wanted testing to expand “dramatically” before the country can safely reopen. Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine also told a local Fox affiliate that epidemiologists have repeatedly suggested delaying any reopening until there’s a reduction in the number of new coronavirus cases.
“It may be that when people go back to work that they wear a mask and gloves for some period of time to limit the spread of disease,” Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas told a local TV station. How cities open, he added, “needs to be dependent upon the particular facts and circumstances in the particular region.”
“I think what happens is we begin to open up the way we shut down, and that’s where our governors and our mayors and our county judges look at local conditions,” Republican Texas Senator John Cornyn said on The Mark Davis Show, a political talk radio show.
Saying that the U.S. has hit “the peak” of new coronavirus infections and deaths, Cornyn said he wanted each state to decide “the right set of protocols” to get people back to work.
Republicans aren’t the only ones eager to reopen their states’ economies. The Democratic governors from the northeastern and western coastal states are also developing regional plans that would gradually restart local schools and businesses while taking pains to avoid risking more coronavirus outbreaks.