Wisconsin’s congressional delegation is split along party lines when it comes to Gov. Tony Evers’ extended stay-at-home order and the potential reopening of the state.
Evers’ order, which is meant to slow the spread of COVID-19, has been in place since March 25 and now is slated to end May 26.
While congressional Democrats say it was a prudent decision, the state’s Republicans in the House and Senate oppose Evers’ decision, saying that “one-size-fits-all” orders from the governor are the wrong approach.
“Our focus should be on how we can safely reopen as much of the economy as possible,” Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Janesville, said in a statement. “Rigid one-size-fits-all rules coupled with the unnecessarily lengthy and burdensome government order is not the answer.”
He added that “Wisconsin needs a more localized and data-driven approach” to reopening the state, and that Evers’ decisions to do so should be independent of what’s happening in other Midwestern states.
Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay, said Evers’ decision “makes absolutely no sense.”
“I’m not suggesting that we can flip a switch and everything will go back to normal, but I do think it’s incumbent upon the governor to start laying out a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “To start laying out a strategy for how we thaw out our economy and eventually get back to business.”
Gallagher advocated for a “thawing-out process that should start now.”
“It will probably take place over the course of a month,” he said. “And even in that scenario, there’s going to be some individual behaviors that we maintain for weeks, such as wearing cloth masks out in public, which no one really wants to do, but we’re going to have to do.”
Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeulah, called Evers’ decision to extend the order until late May “extreme.”
“It’s important to protect people’s lives, but I don’t know why (Evers) would make a five-week commitment,” Grothman said. “I would rather extend it week-by-week.”
Additionally, he expressed concern for small businesses in Wisconsin.
“The government officials who decide to shut down business get paid either way,” he said. “Unlike the restaurateur, who watches their life savings go out the door.”
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, said on WCLO last week that state officials need to “fully recognize the economic devastation and particularly at the lower end of the business-size scale.”
“There’s a human toll definitely associated with the economic devastation occurring as well,” Johnson said. “I think we have to look at the entire spectrum of this problem and try and mitigate the damage across the board.”
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Democrats back Evers
Wisconsin’s congressional Democrats are backing Evers’ efforts.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, said in a statement she supports Evers’ decision to extend the stay-at-home order and that “the path forward must be guided by putting science and public health first.”
Baldwin took aim at President Donald Trump, saying that his administration lacks a plan to provide states with the resources they need to conduct widespread testing, safe contact tracing and other efforts to contain the spread of the virus.
“Liberating our country from this pandemic and moving our economy forward depends on President Trump providing leadership with a national testing plan and the supplies to implement it,” Baldwin said.
Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, said in a statement that “no state is ready to end stay-at-home orders because no state has the testing capacity to accurately track the spread of this virus right now.”
Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, said in a statement that Evers “is following the science and the guidance from public health officials on when and how to safely lift the order.”
Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, said in an interview that extending the stay-at-home order “is a smart way to go.”
“I think it’s important for the governors not to over-promise, not to set expectations too high, only to have it pulled back because, boy, what a psychological blow that would be for people if you open up too soon,” Kind said.