Lindsey Graham appears to be breaking with Donald Trump after the president hinted on Monday that he could ease nationwide restrictions put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Trump has signaled that he could loosen restrictions on businesses at the end of the White House’s recommended 15-day distancing period, with a report from the Washington Post saying that Trump was growing weary of the economic effects of the national shutdown and considering easing restrictions. That would go against the recommendation of medical experts, who have warned that social distancing efforts may need to continue for many weeks or months until an effective vaccine has been developed.
Even though Graham has been among the president’s closest allies, he appeared to push back against the suggestion. In a tweet that linked to the Washington Post article, Graham said that he would be basing decisions on how to address the spread of the coronavirus on healthcare professions, “not political punditry.”
Graham noted that there could be no functioning economy until the spread of the virus is under control — which could only happen under stringent shutdowns across the country.
“Try running an economy with major hospitals overflowing, doctors and nurses forced to stop treating some because they can’t help all, and every moment of gut-wrenching medical chaos being played out in our living rooms, on TV, on social media, and shown all around the world,” Graham tweeted.
As CNN noted in a segment on tensions between Trump and top medical experts, the president appeared to be echoing claims of conservative media. Early on Monday, he tweeted a warning that the “cure” for coronavirus could be worse than the disease, an argument that had appeared almost verbatim on Fox News just minutes earlier.
The U.S. economy has been rocked by the spread of the virus, with many states issuing orders for all non-essential businesses to close down and telling residents to remain in their homes as much as possible, only leaving for essential trips. As a result, countless workers have been indefinitely laid off and there has been a massive national increase in unemployment claims.
Both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are working on bills to address the economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis, including direct payments to Americans, expansion of unemployment, and measures to address the rising needs of the medical system that has in some places been overwhelmed with victims.