Several Republicans and Democrats have pushed back on the president’s recent comments about his “total” authority to reopen the economy.
On Monday, President Trump was asked about his authority to reopen the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He jumped in with both feet, asserting that he has the ultimate power to override state governors.
“When somebody’s President of the United States, the authority is total, and that’s the way it’s got to be,” Trump told a reporter. “It’s total. It’s total, and the governors know that.”
Several lawmakers have pushed back on the president’s comments since Monday’s coronavirus press briefing. Three Democrats went so far as to introduce a resolution on Tuesday in response to his claims.
Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), and Justin Amash (I-Mich.) unveiled a one-sentence resolution, which reads in its entirety: “That the House of Representatives affirms that when someone is the president of the United States, their authority is not total.”
Democrats aren’t the only ones who have condemned Trump’s claims. Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, a Republican, tweeted on Monday evening: “The federal government does not have absolute power.”
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul also pointed out: “If we dispense with constitutional restraints, we will have more to worry about than a virus.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) noted that governors should be the ones responsible for making decisions about reopening certain activities in different parts of the country.
The president’s comments also left legal scholars dumbfounded.
“This isn’t ancient Rome where there’s a special law that says in the event of an emergency all the regular rules are thrown out the window and one person, whom they called the dictator, gets to make the rules for the duration of the emergency or for a period of time,” Robert Chesney, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told The Washington Post. “We don’t have a system like that.”
Trump’s recent pronouncement comes just weeks after putting the onus on governors to supply healthcare workers with much-needed equipment and the power to issue stay-at-home restrictions—citing the Constitution’s delegation of power to the states as his reasoning.
“I leave it up to the governors. The governors know what they’re doing. They’ve been doing a great job,” Trump told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl on April 3. “I like that from the standpoint of governing, and I like that from the standpoint of even our Constitution.”
Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), a libertarian-leaning Independent who left the Republican party last July, said he found Trump’s remarks so outlandish he’s exploring a third-party presidential bid.
“Americans who believe in limited government deserve another option,” he tweeted.