Wisconsin GOP: We ’Don't Care‘ Guv Is Trying to Save Lives
Wisconsin Department of Health Services through the AP
There are many reasons to be concerned in Wisconsin these days.
While the crucial swing state remains a national hotspot for coronavirus, and spike cases and hospital stays have alerted health professionals and local officials, Republicans there continue to attack Democratic Governor Tony Evers for the emergency agency he relies on to access try and fight the virus.
"I don't care whether (the) governor's actions are justified or not, he's acting illegally," said Senator Chris Kapenga, a Republican who opposes the governor's mask order and is angry that the governor is not cooperating with the governor Lawmakers, if Kapenga feels legal, it should be.
That maneuver is Wisconsin's weekly average for new cases, which has increased by an alarming 180 percent month-on-month, according to a tweet from the state Department of Health earlier this week. The test positivity rate in Wisconsin has also risen in recent weeks, leaving local authorities grappling with the rampant spread of the virus. And after reaching 717 new daily confirmed cases on September 8, the numbers have since risen repeatedly to more than 2,000 cases per day, according to state data, with a new high of 2,892 cases on October 3. That record was broken on Thursday when the state reported 3,132 new cases in a single day.
"We are in an emergency," said Ajay K. Sethi, associate professor of population health sciences at the University of Wisconsin, earlier this week. "In terms of the number of cases per capita, we are currently among the highest in the country, along with other areas of the Midwest including North Dakota and South Dakota."
Evers's administration has responded to the crisis in the past few days by issuing an order limiting indoor occupancy to 25 percent for a number of locations that cover places such as bars, shops and restaurants, according to instructions from the state. A day later, Evers announced that the state would soon use a field hospital to treat COVID-19 patients. In a press release, his government warned that “with the surge in COVID-19 cases in September, hospitals are now overwhelmed and fearful of reaching capacity. "
To add to the tensions, the GOP-led lawmaker filed legal papers last week in support of a legal challenge brought by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty seeking an injunction against two of the governor's emergency orders Public health and the national mask sequence.
Wisconsin Builds Field Hospital As COVID-19 Cases Skyrocket
The group said it helped file a lawsuit against Evers in late August, which made the same GOP argument used in other states, where the use of emergency powers was deciphered by the governor rather than one by the GOP controlled lawmakers to work together as the pandemic goes on forever.
"The court should allow the motion, declare that Executive Orders No. 82 and No. 90 (along with Emergency Order No. 1 - the Mask Mandate) are invalid and void, and require the enforcement of any of these orders," said the Wisconsin attorneys The Institute for Law & Liberty wrote late last month calling for an injunction.
The GOP-led Wisconsin Legislature filed court files last Friday to demonstrate plaintiffs support in the case. Her attorney wrote that "the court should accede to the governor's two most recent emergency declarations in defense of Wisconsin's constitutional separation of powers." A hearing was held on Monday and the judge has yet to make a decision.
The GOP's role in this case was met with a violent response from Rep. Gordon Hintz, the leading Democrat in the Wisconsin Congregation, in an interview this week.
"By spending taxpayers' money on attorneys to support a right-wing extremist lawsuit, they are showing that they are not prioritizing the life and health of the public, the future of small businesses, and containing the virus to which they can return." said Hintz.
Wisconsin has provided a disturbing portrait of bipartisan political dysfunction throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
In early April, following the country's pandemic shutdown, a last-minute attempt by Governor Evers to delay the state primaries was foiled by both Republicans and the state's Supreme Court. And in May, the Evers administration's order to be safer at home was put down by the Wisconsin Supreme Court following a GOP-led challenge.
Both Republicans and the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty have argued in a statement that the case is not about the impact of public health measures, but rather an attempt to question what they believe is a illegal exercise of power by the governor is that bypassed the legislature.
However, an in-depth poll of lawmakers about the judicial challenge by a trio of reporters in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, published Thursday, found that an overwhelming majority of Republican lawmakers in the state did not answer questions about whether they would like the lawmaker's involvement in the courtroom agreed to challenge the governor, including the mask sequence.
When The Daily Beast Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, chairman of the congregation's health committee, pressed on the matter, he was irritated when questioned. He insisted that the governor should work with the legislature.
“You want me to say that I am against a mask mandate. I'm not against masks, okay? I'm not. What I am opposed to is a governor who believes he can fire all the shots himself and ignore state law and ignore the constitution, ”Sanfelippo said.
And Republican Assembly spokesman Robin Vos has maintained his criticism of the governor even amid the top and the trial. In a statement on Wednesday, the Republican leader noted "The spate of cases and hospitalizations is real" as he urged people to "wear a mask, wash hands and maintain social distance".
"With cases on the rise again, it is clear that the governor's standalone approach to responding to the coronavirus has failed," Vos said in the statement on the governor's government's recent emergency decree after voicing doubts about its legality. "We must work together to keep our businesses open and our citizens safe."
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Senate Minority Chair Janet Bewley asked Republicans to come back to the session and "do the right thing" with measures that would include a statewide policy on COVID-19 that also included a mask mandate provided.
That didn't happen, and GOP lawmakers have not shown if or when this will change despite their continued attacks on Evers. They have also chosen not to return in an attempt to legally challenge the governor's moves.
“Well, I think number one, they are way behind time and science. We've already proven that masks work, ”said Bewley. “And we know we have big problems here in Wisconsin. We are a hotspot. Ignoring those two things and wasting taxpayers' money and going to court all the time to prevent the most sensible measures to fight COVID is not only ignorant but a neglect for me. "
The conservative knockback on Evers' current deployment of emergency forces to fight the pandemic in a move that resembles the resistance that other Democratic governors have faced, particularly in recent weeks. In Louisiana, the Republicans are determined to try in a special legislative period to restrict the governor's emergency powers. And in Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer is facing the aftermath of a Supreme Court ruling that overturned an emergency powers law that she relied on because of vocal criticism from Republicans in her state.
The politicization of the pandemic response has long been a serious concern for health professionals, but as the pandemic subsides in the fighting, it doesn't seem like any closer to stopping.
"I think it's a national tragedy that we saw what turned a completely apolitical sound science into an ideological dogfight," said Malia Jones, associate scientist in health geography for the Applied Population Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “The way this is supposed to work is that science informs policy. And what we're seeing not just in Wisconsin but nationally is that political ideology is powering the ship at a time when we need science. "
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