As coronavirus cases spike across the country, President Donald Trump and his top officials say everything is mostly under control. But Senate Republicans are pressing them to show a little urgency.
The latest outbreaks are also reshaping the GOP’s political and legislative strategy, with Republicans planning to focus more on health care in the next coronavirus relief bill. And they’re flashing rare frustration at the Trump administration for its decision to wind down federally supported testing sites.
“Frankly I didn’t really understand what they were thinking. … At a time cases are spiking, we’re gonna pull back?” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who wrote a letter to the administration along with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) urging them to change course.
He predicted a reversal: “I’d be surprised if there’s a good reason not to continue it.”
Meanwhile Trump is still downplaying the virus’ impact, questioning the value of testing and ridiculing the idea of wearing a mask despite holding large-scale campaign rallies. While touring an auto plant last month in Michigan, Trump rejected using a mask, saying it was “not necessary.”
But mask-wearing has become virtually ubiquitous among GOP senators and some are now urging Trump to set an example by wearing a face covering, which medical experts say helps slow the spread of the virus.
“We’re going to be required to wear it. … I think he should be leading that effort, yeah,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.). “Should he be wearing a mask? In certain situations, yes.”
“I’d prefer he do it. You know he’s not gonna do it. I’m not excusing it, obviously. I’d prefer he wore it because people follow an example,” added Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), though he noted the president has a different routine than most people; Trump and those around him are regularly tested for the virus.
Trump’s decision not to wear a mask also makes it harder for GOP governors to enforce similar measures without looking like they’re breaking with the president. At this point, many Republican-controlled states are grappling with virus spikes that are largely out of senators’ control.
“I think mayors, governors, the president, they have a responsibility. I think they ought to be talking about masks more and social distancing,” said Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), whose state has seen a significant surge in Covid-19 cases.