House conservatives call to immediately reopen the economy
Conservatives in the House are calling for the country to immediately reopen, raising concerns that the closure of nonessential businesses due to COVID-19 infringes on individuals’ rights and could have detrimental long-term effects on the economy.
While critics fear reopening the economy too soon could lead to a spike in cases, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) — who was recently appointed to President Trump’s “Opening Up America Again” task force — said he believes there is a way to reopen areas that haven’t been heavily impacted by the coronavirus while at the same time minimizing the risk of furthering the outbreak.
That would require being strategic in isolating vulnerable populations, testing health care workers and maintaining social distancing and hygiene practices, he said.
“What you did is, you basically took a sledgehammer to the whole economy. And we now have a huge structural deficit, we’ve really exacerbated our national debt issue and we’ve put 22 million-plus people out of work. I mean, come on, it’s time to open this thing up and trust the American people. I trust the American people, I think that they will get it they will I think they will try everything they can to avoid passing this disease on and I think I think what’ll happen is, is you’ll see that, that we are a much more mature people than some of the draconian authoritarian leaders think we are,” he told The Hill in an interview.
“We all want to take care of those who are vulnerable, and we want to protect them but we also want to be able to live our lives. I think everybody’s important. The people that are huddled up there, they’re not being treated as if they have rights, so not being treated as if they’re important.”
Biggs questioned why certain businesses have been deemed essential while others have had to shut their doors amid the pandemic, adding that he believes some state and local governments have mishandled the response.
“I’m still trying to understand where some of these governors and mayors think that they have the power to close down businesses. Explain to me why the marijuana dispensary, the liquor store drive-through, the big box stores, why are those essential, and folks who have put their life savings into maybe building a small restaurant or a furniture store or a florist or bike repair shop, why aren’t those allowed to be opened up?” he continued.
He added he’s concerned about the effects of keeping people sheltered in place long-term on people’s mental health.
“Nobody’s even talking about the other issues that come up: increased suicide, domestic violence, child abuse, alcohol and drug abuse. You know, all kinds of things happen when you are isolated.”
Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), the communications chair for the Freedom Caucus, also expressed fears over the impact the stay-at-home orders will have on small businesses after the pandemic.
“It is impossible for us to sustain this, the only way we get over this is to open the economy and let free enterprise to this job, let people get back to work. And we’ve got to do that as rapidly as possible,” he told The Hill, adding that they can’t take a “one shoe fits approach.”
The Georgia Republican said he also has concerns over the stimulus bills passed by Congress, as lawmakers look at passing the fourth measure to provide an additional $250 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provides forgivable loans to small businesses struggling amid the pandemic.
“The last bill was that was $2.3 trillion, and in that was $350 billion for small businesses. We are told that there are some 30 million small businesses, at this point about one and a half million have participated in PPP, and we’ve already used up $350 billion. And so we’re being asked for another $250 billion,” he said. “But if there are 30 million small businesses, I mean, this could end up costing trillions and trillions of dollars.”
Biggs spearheaded efforts on a letter sent to the president on Friday — signed by 11 Freedom Caucus members including Hice — expressing their desire to move swiftly to reopen the country.
“The American people are resilient, but they have suffered tremendously under the weight of this closed economy,” they wrote.
“Measures enacted by Congress have provided limited relief. More government is not the answer to these economic woes—reopening the economy is the answer. We are a free people with a free and fair market. The sooner we return to it, the sooner our economy will again thrive.”
The lawmakers’ comments come as the United States has seen an uptick in protests against shelter-in-place policies across the country, with some states — including Florida which recently reopened its beaches — easing its policies.
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