Republicans continue to announce hostage negotiation conditions for tens of millions of Americans and they fully expect Democratic governors and state legislatures to bend the knee or risk losing billions in federal aid.
President Donald Trump indicated he wouldn’t allow federal aid for states facing budget deficits from the coronavirus outbreak unless they take action against “sanctuary cities” -- municipalities that prevent their police from cooperating with immigration authorities.
“We would want certain things” as part of a deal with House Democrats to aid states, he said at a White House event on Tuesday, “including sanctuary city adjustments, because we have so many people in sanctuary cities.”
“What’s happening is people are being protected that shouldn’t be protected and a lot of bad things are happening with sanctuary cities,” he added.
Trump has long complained about the cities and has previously sought to cut off their federal funding unless they end the policies.
Democrats have said the next round of federal stimulus must include aid for states. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has indicating he’d be in favor of aiding states, but not helping those burden by pension obligations to bail out old debts. He said those states should be allowed to declare bankruptcy, which they can’t currently do.
Industry groups have their own demands, namely full immunity from any COVID-19 lawsuits.
Business lobbyists and executives are pushing the Trump administration and Congress to shield American companies from a wide range of potential lawsuits related to reopening the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, opening a new legal and political fight over how the nation deals with the fallout from Covid-19.
Government officials are beginning the slow process of lifting restrictions on economic activity in states and local areas across the country. But lobbyists say retailers, manufacturers, eateries and other businesses will struggle to start back up if lawmakers do not place temporary limits on legal liability in areas including worker privacy, employment discrimination and product manufacturing.
The biggest push, business groups say, is to give companies enhanced protection against lawsuits by customers or employees who contract the virus and accuse the business of being the source of the infection.
The effort highlights a core tension for as the economy begins to reopen: how to give businesses the confidence they need to restart operations amid swirling uncertainty over the virus and its effects, while also protecting workers and customers from unsafe practices that could raise the chances of infection.
Administration officials have said they are examining how they could create some of those shields via regulation or executive order. But lobbyists and lawmakers agree that the most consequential changes would need to come from Congress — where the effort has run into partisan divisions that could complicate lawmakers’ ability to pass another stimulus package.
And finally, GOP governors are holding their own constituents hostage: return to work immediately with no protection from the virus, or lose your unemployment checks.
"If you're an employer and you offer to bring your employee back to work and they decide not to, that's a voluntary quit," Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) said Friday. "Therefore, they would not be eligible for the unemployment money."
Reynolds also said employers who have workers that refuse to return should file a report with Iowa Workforce Development.
On Monday, the governor announced that she was loosening social distancing restrictions in 77 of Iowa's 99 counties, effective May 1.
"In the 77 counties, the proclamation permits restaurants, fitness centers, malls, libraries, race tracks, and certain other retail establishments to reopen in a limited fashion with public health measures in place," the governor's office said in a statement.
Reynolds said the 77 counties have either seen a steady decline in new cases or no new cases at all for the past two weeks, one of the main benchmarks the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention set for states wanting to reopen their economies.
The only exception for workers getting unemployment after not returning to work is if they are ill with the virus or taking care of a family member who has the deadly disease.
The situation is similar for workers in Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Monday gave the go-ahead for retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls to reopen on Friday.
According to the Texas Workforce Commission, to qualify for unemployment benefits in the state, a worker must be “willing and able to work all the days and hours required for the type of work you are seeking."
Cisco Gamez, a Texas Workforce Commission spokesman, told the Texas Tribune that employees who choose not to return to work will become ineligible for unemployment benefits.
Georgia and South Carolina are adopting similar positions.
Risk the virus or starve. Your choice. Tens of millions of hostages, all lined up for execution.