Some GOP officials push back against warnings to stay home for Thanksgiving, accusing Dems of hypocrisy
A number of congressional Republicans are pushing back against strict limits on gatherings and travel issued by a number of states ahead of Thanksgiving as coronavirus cases continue to rise at breakneck speed and families face a decision about whether to continue their traditions as normal this year.
The pandemic has been politicized for months. But the holiday appears to be a line in the sand for some as governors in multiple states have banned socialization between households, implemented mask mandates for private residences and instituted other strict limits on what Americans can do, who they can see and where they can go.
On Sunday, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, issued a ban on private gatherings of more than 10 people, becoming just the latest state executive to cap socialization at private residences. Minnesota last week banned social gatherings of more than one household, Kentucky capped gatherings at eight people from two households, Oregon limited gatherings to six people from two households and Michigan limited gatherings to two households with no specific limit on a number of people.
Meanwhile, governors and health experts continue to raise alarm about the potential that Thanksgiving gatherings could turn into superspreader events and put further stress on hospital systems in states where they are already near their limit entering the flu season.
"To invite a friend over or a brother-in-law to watch the Vikings play the Bears is one of the riskiest things we can do right now. It seems too easy and it doesn't seem like that's a big deal but that would be a big risk," Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, said last week as he announced his four-week order banning Minnesotans from socializing with people outside their household.
"I heard a nurse the other day who was with me and she said 'please stay home over Thanksgiving so you're not celebrating with me in the emergency room,'" he added.
But Republicans are raising concerns about liberty and potentially even the constitutionality of the harsh orders and accusing Democrats of hypocrisy as they push back against the rules that would force many families to rethink their Thanksgiving plans.
"Many in mainstream media, bureaucrats, & radical leftists cannot stand that Americans are making their own, free decisions by traveling for Thanksgiving," Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., one of the more vocal members of the House, said Sunday. "Expect a historic War on Christmas in return. Opponents of freedom will be thirsty for revenge on freedom-loving Americans."
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and a member of the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, also weighed in, referencing one example of a Democrat governor breaking his own coronavirus rules.
"Democrats attend birthday parties indoors," Jordan said Sunday, likely referencing a controversy that's embroiled California Gov. Gavin Newsom in recent days. "But expect you to celebrate Thanksgiving alone outside. Americans are tired of the hypocrisy."
Before that, Jordan slammed the restrictions as potentially unconstitutional in a Saturday appearance on Fox News' "Watters World."
“This has gotten so ridiculous and we forget this is America,” he said. “When the first lockdown happened, the attorney general of the United States sent out a memo to all U.S. attorneys… near the end of the memo he had a great line. He said, ‘The Constitution is not suspended during a crisis.’ And amen to that.”
The Twitter account representing the Republicans on the select coronavirus committee also slammed Newsom over his birthday party appearance last week.
"First it was @SpeakerPelosi flouting closures to get her hair done without a mask. Now, CA Gov. @GavinNewsom is disregarding his own restrictions to attend an elaborate birthday party while telling us to cancel family Thanksgiving plans," it said. "What a joke."
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, weighed in with an edited image of the famous "Come and Take It" flag, which is popular in the state because of its roots in the Texas Revolution. Rather than a cannon with a black star above it, however, Cruz's flag depicted a Thanksgiving turkey.
Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., meanwhile supported a sheriff's department's decision not to enforce New York's coronavirus rules for Thanksgiving.
"This is 100% the right call!" Zeldin said Sunday in response to the announcement, which did encourage people to "be mindful of the health pandemic" ahead of the holidays. "Just another one of the many reasons to be thankful for our local men & women in blue this #Thanksgiving."
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a press conference Wednesday slammed sheriffs who are saying they will not enforce the restrictions.
"I don't believe as a law enforcement officer, you have a right to pick and choose" what to enforce and what not to enforce, he said. "That is frankly frightening to me as an individual, frightening to democracy. It's arrogant and it violates your constitutional duty."
Other House Republicans, meanwhile, have more directly assailed restrictions being issued by governors and guidelines from the CDC.
"A (sic) apologize to the folks who have raised concerns that I said 'I will do whatever I want to do on Thanksgiving. Period,'" Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas said after backing a statement by conservative talk show host Steve Deace that he would intentionally violate CDC guidelines on Thanksgiving. "I should have been more clear, so here it goes: 'I will do whatever I want to do on Thanksgiving... or any other day... Period.'”
Added Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.: "I don't want to cancel Thanksgiving or Christmas. I want to cancel the lockdowns."
The outrage expressed by some on the right comes as orders continue to come down largely from leaders in Democratic jurisdictions.
On Sunday, Sisolak announced a three-week "pause" to the state's reopening, which takes effect Tuesday. It restricts the size of private gatherings to 10 people from no more than two households, which like in other states would likely force many to reconsider their Thanksgiving plans. Sisolak's order also makes Nevada's mask mandate more restrictive, requiring masks for private gatherings in homes and masks at all times whether indoors or outdoors if in the presence of someone from a different household.
Sisolak's order still permits public gatherings of up to 50 people and reduces the capacity allowed for many businesses, rather than closing any. But he threatened citizens with stronger restrictions if cases do not decrease.
"If this is not taken seriously and our situation worsens in the next three weeks – continuing the current trajectory that threatens our health care infrastructure -- I will be forced to intervene and to take stronger action," Sisolak said.
"Stronger action will be targeted at high-risk settings, & may include: Prohibition of indoor dining & service at restaurants & bars. Closure of gyms & fitness facilities. Severe restrictions on gathering sizes," Sisolak continued. "That is what is in our future if our trends do not improve."
The governor also addressed the dire state of the pandemic in Nevada.
"Our case rate growth is at wildfire levels – even outpacing neighboring states, such as Arizona. All available models indicate that Nevada is in a 'red zone' and our health experts anticipate continued case growth based on current trends," he said. "Our hospitals are experiencing record numbers and as you heard from Dr. Tony Slonim of Renown a couple weeks ago, they’ve started treating patients in an alternative care site in the parking lot."
Sisolak added: "Some of our hospitals are experiencing staffing shortages because they have become infected or their family members have been diagnosed with COVID and workers are in quarantine ... Our public infrastructure is quickly becoming overwhelmed."
Not all Republicans have taken such a hard-line stance against coronavirus precautions. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has been encouraging citizens to socially distance and wear masks for months and has even said he's avoided the White House in recent months because of its lax coronavirus protocols.
Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., meanwhile shared Federal Aviation Administration resources for those who will be traveling for Thanksgiving to remain safe.
And a handful of Republican governors, including Doug Burgum of North Dakota and Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, have warned about the pandemic threat as they've implemented mask mandates in their own states.
"In looking at the data, it is clear that a statewide mask mandate is in the best interest of our citizens," Sununu said last week. "Our hospitalization rate is increasing. We have always said that we cannot let our health care system get overrun, and instituting this mandate will help."