U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio offered a counter to President Donald Trump‘s claim that the federal government will have “total” authority in relaxing social distancing measures established throughout the nation.
While Rubio did not name-check the President, he made clear the decision about when and how to reopen the economy will be left up to local and state leaders.
Speaking virtually with Sen. Oscar Braynon II and state Rep. Shevrin Jones Wednesday, Rubio fielded a question about whether he thought the economy should be reopened quickly.
“First of all, from a legal standpoint, that decision belongs to states, not to the federal government,” Rubio said.
“The federal government can provide guidance. And I think it’s going to be tough for a Governor to open if the President is saying, ‘don’t open.’ But by and large, it’s states that are going to make these decisions about when to reopen.”
Rubio also repeated remarks made in an earlier Twitter video, arguing things will not be fully back to normal any time soon, but that widespread shutdowns are not sustainable either.
What the near future will look like has been on the minds of many as states and local governments have instituted more restrictive social distancing measures to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.
But as people seek answers, Trump muddied the waters Monday by claiming he has “total” authority to decide on a reopening. While the federal government has offered guidance with regard to social distancing, states, cities and counties have been behind the substantive decisions about what to close and for how long.
That’s because there are no federal laws nor constitutional authority giving the federal government such broad power.
Trump could threaten to withhold grants or other funding to local government in an effort to coax them into reopening.
Rubio made that point on two separate occasions during Wednesday’s talk.
“It’s a very delicate situation, and one that I think you’re going to see [decided] at the local and state level and appropriately so,” Rubio said.
“Every state and every community has some nuances to it that need to be adjusted for.”
In Florida, the elderly large population has been disproportionately hurt by the virus.
“Our hospitals are actually in pretty good shape,” Rubio said Wednesday, noting even the hardest-hit counties still retain bed capacity thanks to a flattening of the curve following social distancing measures.
“But they are one or two major retirement community outbreaks away from being overwhelmed pretty quickly. And that’s what we’ve got to think about in terms of the unique aspect of our society.”
Rubio, Braynon and Jones also discussed whether Floridans can expect further federal aid.
“We have received so many calls and emails from small business people, from our gig workers, who are struggling and who need help,” Braynon said Wednesday.
Added Jones, “people are begging for clarity on what’s going on.”
Rubio responded, saying he expects several more bills to pass.
The Senator said the next few will likely beef up funding provided in the CARES Act, the third major relief package.
Rubio said those bills will either expand programs in the CARES Act that have been exhausted or add funding where necessary.
“If the CARES Act was the third thing we did, there’s probably going to be a 3a, 3b, 3c,” Rubio said.
“There are a lot of things we are going to need to do, whether it’s replenishing the PPP fund or whether it’s some of the additional help that we need to give cities and counties and other issues that come about, depending on how long this goes.”
He then said a fourth major bill will likely be necessary to begin economic recovery.
“Some of that recovery will also be the costs related to response. But in addition to it, [it will contain] some of the things we may want to do to help restart the economy.”