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GOP senators push for quick, partial reopening of economy

Some Republican senators are calling to quickly reopen parts of the economy shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic, but are warning that it won't be an instantaneous return to normal.

The goalpost setting comes as President TrumpDonald TrumpNYT: Rep. Perry played role in alleged Trump plan to oust acting AG Arizona GOP censures top state Republicans McCain, Flake and Ducey Biden and UK prime minister discuss NATO, multilateralism during call MORE has appeared eager for restrictions to be scaled back soon, initially claiming he had "total" authority to make the call. He has eased off those comments amid pushback from individual governors, though has named an economic task force to help come up with a strategy for reopening the country.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTrump impeachment trial to begin week of Feb. 8 Limbaugh falsely says Biden didn't win legitimately while reacting to inauguration Top Texas Democratic Party staffers to step down after underwhelming election results MORE (R-Texas) on Wednesday warned that the country reopening would likely mirror how restrictions and stay-at-home orders went into place: By location and a piecemeal lifting of social distancing measures. 

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"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," Cornyn told "The Mark Davis Show."

"Now that hopefully we've hit the peak ... we can think about in each of these circumstances, in each of these states, what the right set of protocols are to begin to open our economy and let people go back to work," he added.

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzBiden leans on Obama-era appointees on climate Ethics complaint filed against Biggs, Cawthorn and Gosar over Capitol riot Hawley, Cruz see approval ratings dip in wake of Capitol riot: poll MORE (R-Texas) told a local TV station that it is "time for Texans to go back to work," but he noted that the same guidelines for states like Texas did not make sense, for example, in New York City — the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S.

"It needs to be dependent upon the particular facts and circumstances in the particular region. ... 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. We’ve seen that all the time," he told KCBD.

Approximately 95 percent of the country is currently living under a stay-at-home order. Five states — Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota — do not have any stay-at-home orders. 

Trump said Tuesday that he thought some state governments would be able to reopen their economies by May 1. 

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“The day will be very close because certain states as you know are in a much different condition and are in a much different place than other states. It’s going to be very very close. Maybe even before the date of May 1,” he said.

He added in a tweet on Wednesday that "we are having very productive calls with the leaders of every sector of the economy who are all-in on getting America back to work, and soon. More to come!"

Republicans acknowledge that the situation is in flux, but are pushing for governments to start planning for how to reopen shuttered sectors. 

“Now is the time to begin the discussion on how we slowly, gradually reopen our economy, because we are doing enormous damage every week that goes by where people are not allowed to work,” Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyGovernment used Patriot Act to gather website visitor logs in 2019 Appeals court rules NSA's bulk phone data collection illegal Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel MORE (R-Pa.) told WPXI, a Pittsburgh TV station.

“I don’t think we can afford to wait and keep the economy closed until we have a massive scale of antibody testing capability," he added.

Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) warned about the "human cost" of closing the country and noted that Trump called him over the weekend to discuss reopening the economy. 

"We talked about what sectors could go back, what regions could go back," he told Georgia radio station WDAK. "I believe you're going to see the president and the administration beginning to talk about how we can do this gradually over the next few weeks." 

Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyTrump DHS chief argues for swift confirmation of Biden pick amid Hawley hold Overnight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage Ethics complaint filed against Biggs, Cawthorn and Gosar over Capitol riot MORE (R-Mo.) told The Federalist, an online conservative publication, that the economy should be opened "as soon as we possibly can." And Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonSunday shows preview: All eyes on Biden administration to tackle coronavirus Senate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee MORE (R-Ark.) told a local Arkansas radio station that he hoped that there could be a return to "something like normal in the weeks ahead, not months but in the weeks ahead."

Public health officials have warned against expecting an immediate return to norms before the virus broke out in the U.S.

"There’s not going to be a light switch that we say, OK, it is now June, July, or whatever — click — the light switch goes back on,” Anthony FauciAnthony FauciAstraZeneca vaccine distribution begins in Brazil Biden and UK prime minister discuss NATO, multilateralism during call Sunday shows preview: All eyes on Biden administration to tackle coronavirus MORE, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN earlier this month. 

Fauci's caution earned him a call out from Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Ken BuckKenneth (Ken) Robert BuckProgressive groups warn against appointing tech insiders to key antitrust roles House Republican condemns anti-Trump celebrities during impeachment hearing Pompeo, Cruz and other Trump allies condemn Twitter's ban on president MORE (R-Colo.) — who are viewed as close to White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Sights and sounds from Inauguration Day Trump leaves White House, promises to be back in 'some form' LIVE INAUGURATION COVERAGE: Biden signs executive orders; press secretary holds first briefing MORE — who questioned if his recommendations would be "more harmful than the disease in the long term." 

"Fauci is a respected healthcare professional, who has contributed a great deal to his country. But he can no longer be one of the primary voices in this crisis, especially not after his assertion that the economic effects and devastation from this shutdown are merely inconvenient," they wrote in a Washington Examiner op-ed

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How long the country stays closed has deep economic and political consequences. Roughly 17 million people have filed for unemployment in the past three weeks, leading to a surge in jobless claims just months before an election where Republicans had planned to make the strength of the economy a key selling point. 

But lifting restrictions too soon could be equally devastating to Trump's reelection campaign because experts warn that it could cause a second surge of cases later in the year. Public health experts have also called for widespread testing to be in place. 

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden's crisis agenda hits headwinds Bipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief The Hill's Morning Report - Biden takes office, calls for end to 'uncivil war' MORE (R-Ohio) told the Columbus Dispatch that testing needed to be improved "dramatically" before the country reopens. 

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden's crisis agenda hits headwinds GOP senators say only a few Republicans will vote to convict Trump For Biden, a Senate trial could aid bipartisanship around COVID relief MORE (R-Maine) also told a Maine Fox station that "from all the epidemiologists that I’ve talked to and briefings I’ve attended, we have to wait until the number of new cases starts going down."