WASHINGTON — Roughly six months ago, the coronavirus pandemic caused a national emergency declaration in the United States, prompting shutdowns and panic across the country as little information was given to the public from the federal government. We now know that Donald Trump knowingly downplayed the severity of the coronavirus — despite understanding it was deadly, even to young people, from the very beginning. He lied to the American people and across the country Republican legislators followed his lead and actively made this crisis worse.
The GOP’s callous refusal to follow medical advice is to blame for the rising deaths and cases. Republicans also frequently refused to wear masks, attended re-open rallies, hid positive COVID-19 test results from their Democratic colleagues, and continued to host in-person campaign events throughout the pandemic.
Here’s a look back at the most irresponsible GOP legislation during this crisis:
- Pennsylvania Republicans refused to postpone an election in March in the early days of the pandemic. Despite the calls from Democratic Governor Tom Wolf to postpone three special elections until Pennsylvania’s primary date in April, Republicans chose to put Pennsylvania voters and poll workers at risk by holding a special election.
- The Wisconsin GOP sued to hold a major election with in-person voting back in April — so Republicans forced people to choose between their health and their franchise during the pandemic. The GOP thought the pandemic would help their chances, but instead, it backfired.
- Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka tweeted that he hoped Governor Tim Walz wouldn’t extend the state’s stay-at-home order because “we have to get on with our lives.”
- Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield published an op-ed critical of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s executive actions to protect the public health without citing any medical evidence to support his position. At the time, Michigan was combating one of the worst outbreaks in the nation, and a majority of Michiganders approved of the governor’s response. Chatfield also serves as the finance chair of the Republican State Leadership Committee.
- While Pennsylvania was still dealing with one of the worst outbreaks in the country, Pennsylvania Republicans voted to override Governor Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order and rejected amendments that would protect the health of essential workers.
- Republican leaders in both chambers of the Montana Legislature called on Governor Steve Bullock to rethink the state’s stay-at-home measure, saying “state government was not designed to solve this problem.”
- Despite thousands of confirmed coronavirus cases in Kansas, Republicans doubled down on their opposition to expanding Medicaid to over 130,000 Kansans. In a report from KSNT, a representative for Senate President Susan Wagle confirmed that an unprecedented public health crisis hadn’t compelled the GOP to reexamine its stance against health care for its constituents. Shortly after, GOP legislators ended their session without extending affordable health care.
- Wisconson Republicans sued Governor Tony Evers over his stay-at-home order — and the conservative state Supreme Court sided with the GOP. Bars opened the very same night, with packed crowds. After successfully overturning science-based health orders, Republican legislators refused to do their jobs by creating new guidelines, shrugging and leaving the issue to local officials to deal with.
- Republicans in Georgia and Texas reopened several nonessential businesses in May despite warnings from medical experts that this would worsen the spread of the virus in their states. To make matters worse, those who didn’t return to their jobs for fear of their safety risked losing their unemployment benefits. Less than two months later, Texas shut back down as the number of coronavirus cases across the state reached new highs.
- While still in office, former Speaker of the Pennsylvania House Mike Turzai falsely claimed it would be safe for children to return to schools, even though the science about the pandemic’s impact on children wasn’t settled. Turzai also emphasized that many of the Pennsylvanians who died were elderly or had preexisting conditions, a move that a Philadelphia Inquirer columnist called “straight-outta-Nuremberg eugenics-type stuff.”
- North Carolina Republicans were too busy throwing science out the window to work with Governor Roy Cooper to keep North Carolinians safe. In June, the GOP majorities in the General Assembly voted repeatedly to override Governor Cooper’s phased reopening plan even as confirmed infections continued to rise.
- After reopening against public safety guidelines, Arizona saw a huge spike in its coronavirus cases. The state became overwhelmed as restaurants shut down again and hospitals were stretched thin to manage the influx in patients. Republican lawmakers downplayed the pandemic and flouted health safety guidelines before the spike in cases.
- In the spring, Florida’s Republican leadership took a premature victory lap and reopened the Sunshine State. Since then, COVID-19 cases surged to new heights — setting the nationwide single-day record at more than 11,000 new cases at the time in July.
- State Republicans across the country rejected the advice of public health experts about the importance of wearing masks. Between ignoring mask mandates, failing to implement statewide safety measures, and working to override popular efforts by Democratic governors, the GOP played politics with people’s lives and further delayed any possible return to normalcy.
- Republican state legislators across the country publicly signed onto a letter by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) saying they didn’t want federal aid to go to their states. GOP legislators got exactly what they asked for — no federal funding, even their states face massive revenue losses.
- Minnesota Senate Republicans blocked the confirmation of the state commissioner of Labor and Industry in a last-minute vote in August. Despite the fact that essential workers risk their health on the front lines of the pandemic every day, the GOP decided that the middle of the coronavirus crisis was the perfect time to oust the person overseeing occupational health and safety.
- Pennsylvania GOP Representative Jim Cox argued that it should be up to the private sector and individuals to solve this crisis — not the government. While shocking, his comments also perfectly summed up the Republican response to the pandemic.
- A report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed GOP leaders traveled for an in-person retreat hosted by the Republican State Leadership Committee in Georgia, a coronavirus hotspot — against CDC recommendations. Instead of focusing on the issues facing their constituents, like the pandemic or record unemployment, these legislators spent their afternoons golfing, clay shooting, and having brunch on the beach. Attendees included Republican leaders in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.
- Republicans in Iowa have been promoting conspiracy theories that risk the health and safety of Iowans. Representative Ann Meyer claimed that physicians were politically motivated to make the COVID-19 data look bad. Representative Jeff Shipley shared a constituent email to claim that the lockdown was the effort of a “coordinated political group” and that health experts were fear-mongering for no reason. He also insisted that “this virus isn’t even killing anybody.”
- We now know that Donald Trump understood the deadly seriousness of the coronavirus since February and GOP legislators were complicit in his lies. Instead of focusing on saving lives, Republicans stood by the president and downplayed the severity of the virus, leading to 200,000 deaths.