Pennsylvania Republicans sent legislation to Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) desk Wednesday to reopen some currently shuttered businesses, and to shift more power to do so to county officials.
The first bill would implement a broader definition of who qualifies as an essential worker than the list the governor published. In particular, it would include all construction workers; currently, only emergency repairs are being made in the commonwealth.
It would also force the governor to create a “mitigation plan” for businesses to follow that hews to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. Any business that followed that plan would be permitted to reopen.
The bill passed largely down party lines in the Republican-majority Senate and House of Representatives.
Nate Wardle, Wolf’s press secretary, told TPM that they “cannot comment on proposed legislation,” but that “it is important that we allow science and the COVID-19 data to assist in our decision making process, for the health and wellbeing of all Pennsylvanians.”
Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor John Fetterman, however, was a bit more candid about the governor’s intentions in a Wednesday tweet.
A: Rhymes with ‘Veto.’ https://t.co/5g1YI3Hyxk
— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) April 15, 2020
The second bill, also introduced and passed largely on the votes of Republicans, would seek to strip even more authority from the governor.
It would vest county officials with the power to broaden the categories of essential workers, and to allow businesses in certain areas to reopen, providing they operate according to CDC guidelines.
Democratic Senate whip Anthony Williams traced the transmission of the disease that could accompany trucks moving goods between states and regions of Pennsylvania if a mass of businesses was quickly reopened.
“I am certainly concerned about economy, as we all are, Democrats and Republicans,” he said on a video call with the other senators. “My response is to say it is maybe a good intention, but flawed approach,” he added, encouraging the senators to vote again the measure.
Republicans lack the numbers to amass the two-thirds needed to override a veto on their own, and Democrats are staunchly opposed to reopening businesses early.
The effort is resonant of one by Republicans in Kansas, who went to war with the governor over her banning of church gatherings over ten people. The state Supreme Court ultimately sided with the governor, allowing her order to stand.
Though the Pennsylvanian Republicans’ efforts will likely prove similarly fruitless, the GOP chafing under stay-at-home orders mirrors a reaction seen in both White House press briefings and protest chants.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly called for society to reopen sooner rather than later, his mantra on the matter being that the “cure can’t be worse than the problem itself.”
That attitude has been parroted by protesters nationwide, who have staked out state capitols (often in violation of social distancing guidelines) in recent days to express their frustration with stay-at-home orders.
In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) expansion of her stay-at-home order enraged previously supportive Republicans, both on the legislative and civilian level. On Wednesday, protesters clogged the streets surrounding the capitol building in Lansing.
Calling the demonstration “Operation Gridlock,” protesters, many of them attired in MAGA gear, took to the streets chanting “lock her up!”
Similar, though smaller, demonstrations broke out this week in Raleigh, North Carolina and Columbus, Ohio.
On Wednesday, protests outside the Kentucky capitol were so loud that they threatened to drown out Gov. Andy Beshear’s (D) daily press conference. Per the Courier-Journal, demonstrators shouted “we want to work!” and “facts over fear.”
Beshear acknowledged the chanting about halfway through his remarks.
“We do have some folks up in here in Kentucky today — and everybody should be able to express their opinion — that believe we should reopen Kentucky immediately, right now,” Beshear said. “Folks, that would kill people. That would absolutely kill people.”