Republicans in Congress choose the economy over saving American lives


As Trump pushes a plan to ease social distancing rules, several GOP lawmakers want the economy opened up posthaste.

Donald Trump released guidelines on Thursday for how to reopen the United States economy, even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Many of his Republican allies in Congress have made it clear in recent days that they want social distancing measures eased immediately, despite expert warnings that it would not be safe.

The COVID-19 crisis is far from over. According to the CDC, there have now been more than 630,000 cases in the United States and over 27,000 deaths. Those numbers included more than 30,000 new cases and nearly 2,500 new deaths over the previous day.

But the economy is struggling: 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the last four weeks, wiping out the 6 million jobs Trump once boasted of creating and a lot more.

Here are some of the Republican lawmakers who believe the economy should be the top priority, rather than public health:

Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs

"It should have happened yesterday," Biggs told Politico this week of lifting stay-at-home orders. "I'm trying to use every bully pulpit I can to make my case."

Biggs told a local radio station Wednesday that nonessential businesses should be allowed to reopen in Arizona. "Allow retail shops to open up the way they normally would with social distancing you see in grocery stores … businesses are just dying on the vine. We need to take care of that," he said. "If you can do it in a grocery store, for Pete's sake, [or] at a liquor store, then I would suggest you can do it in a furniture store."

USA Today reported earlier this week that at least 30 American grocery store employees have already died from COVID-19, suggesting that attempts to implement social distancing in grocery stores has not prevented transmission.

More than 3,800 coronavirus cases have been reported in Arizona as of Thursday.

Texas Rep. Chip Roy

"Yes, the virus is going to continue to exist. But we have to get our economy going," Roy told the Washington Examiner last Thursday. He claimed that "we probably have two or three weeks at most" to begin reopening things to avoid a prolonged economic crisis.

But last month, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health epidemiologist Dr. Robert Kim-Farley told the Guardian that if we ended social distancing too soon, we would likely see a "second wave" of cases.

"We have to err on the side of protecting human life. So we should not rush back to business as usual, at the expense of a second wave. That indeed could be a tsunami that would endanger many more lives," he said.

More than 14,600 coronavirus cases have been reported in Texas as of Thursday.

California Rep. Devin Nunes

In a March 31 Fox News appearance, Nunes complained that his state had closed schools and demanded the economy immediately reopen.

"The schools were canceled here in California, which is way overkill," he said. "It's possible kids could've went back to school in two weeks to four weeks, but they just canceled the rest of the schools."

"I will tell you this: If we don't start to get people back to work in this country over the next week to two weeks, I don't believe we can wait until, you know, the end of April," he added, "I just think, I just don't know of any economy that's ever survived where you unplug the entire economy and expect things to go back and be normal."

According to state predictions, the death and hospitalization peaks for his state may not come until mid- or late June, even with the efforts already taken.

More than 23,300 coronavirus cases have been reported in California as of Thursday.

Colorado Rep. Ken Buck

"You're dealing with a lot of hype about fatalities," Buck told Politico this week. "I don't know anybody that wants to be the person who says, '33,000 deaths is okay, but 100,000 is not acceptable.' But that's what officials are elected to do."

The number of reported COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. has exceeded deaths in any other nation.

More than 7,900 coronavirus cases have been reported in Colorado as of Thursday.

Indiana Rep. Trey Hollingsworth

Hollingsworth told a local radio station this week that ending social distancing was the "lesser" of "two evils."

"There is no zero-harm choice here. Both of these decisions will lead to harm for individuals, whether that's dramatic economic harm or whether that's the loss of life," he said. "But it is always the American government's position to say, in the choice between the loss of our way of life as Americans and the loss of life of American lives, we have to always choose the latter."

Hollingsworth added that it is "policymakers' decision to put on our big boy and big girl pants and say, This is the lesser of these two evils. And it is not zero evil, but it is the lesser of these evils, and we intend to move forward in that direction. That is our responsibility, and to abdicate that is to insult the Americans that voted us into office."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, told CNN on Sunday that "there's an extraordinary risk of there being a rebound" if the economy is immediately reopened all at once.

More than 8,500 coronavirus cases have been reported in Indiana as of Thursday.

Lousiana Sen. John Kennedy

"Every politician, myself included sometimes, is just dancing around the issue," Kennedy told Fox News this week. "The American people get it: We gotta reopen, and when we do, the coronavirus is gonna spread faster, and we gotta be ready."

A Trump administration model, released last week, found that without the mitigation efforts already taken, the U.S. death total could have been 300,000, but that if stay-at-home orders are lifted after just 30 days, the death total could reach 200,000.

More than 21,500 coronavirus cases have been reported in Louisiana as of Thursday.

Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey

Toomey told a local news outlet this week that he hopes to soon see the economy open gradually.

"We are doing enormous damage every week that goes by where people are not allowed to work," he 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."

Experts say lack of testing is the biggest obstacle to reopening the economy and lack of supplies has meant few Americans have been tested.

In a phone call with Donald Trump, business leaders reportedly warned Wednesday that without widespread testing, American customers will not come back even if businesses reopen.

More than 25,300 coronavirus cases have been reported in Pennsylvania as of Thursday.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz

"We've got to deal with the economic devastation of all of the people who are hurting and I’ll tell you it is time for Texans to go back to work," Cruz told a local station on Tuesday. "I'm very glad that both the President and the governor are laying out a specific time frame, a specific plan to get Texans back to work."

"Listen, obviously, those who are very vulnerable, those who are elderly, those who have serious health conditions, you should stay home if they if that describes you, you should stay home because this disease has been particularly devastating for the elderly and those with serious health conditions," he added. "But for people who are young and healthy and able to work, we need to get people back to work sooner rather than later."

But the number of new infections in Texas — 718 on Tuesday — is not yet declining. And the World Health Organization has warned that while young people without preexisting conditions are less likely to die from COVID-19, people of all ages have.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.