By Emry Dinman / Columbia Basin Herald
Following announced restrictions Sunday for restaurants and other businesses by Gov. Jay Inslee, Washington Republican legislators quickly issued statements reiterating requests for the governor to involve them in the decision-making process and to call a special session of the legislature.
In a Sunday statement, Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, joined the governor in expressing concerns about rising COVID-19 cases and the potential that a third wave of the pandemic could overload hospital capacity.
But he also stated the governor hasn’t been working with his caucus to come up with bipartisan solutions to the pandemic, and senate Republicans were prepared to convene for an emergency special session if the governor called for one.
“There would likely be far more widespread support for safety measures if they weren’t being dictated to us by one man,” Schoesler said in the statement.
Schoesler and other Republican lawmakers previously have been critical of Inslee’s handling of pandemic-related business closures, claiming that the restrictions were also costing lives.
“We must do everything possible to protect people’s lives, but also protect their ability to provide for their families,” Schoesler said. “Many can’t feed their children. We are seeing an increase in suicides as well as more deaths from the virus. Unemployment and financial ruin are driving that desperation.”
In a statement, Republican Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said she was disappointed with Inslee’s “one-size-fits-all shutdown” and the impact it could have on struggling businesses.
House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, wrote a tweet Saturday evening, shortly after details of the governor’s announcement leaked to the press, joining in calls for financial support for impacted businesses and asking Inslee not to wait for potential relief from the federal government.
“The legislature can tap the rainy day fund to help mitigate the impact on small business,” Wilcox wrote. “We don’t have to wait for Congress.”
State Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, concurred, saying that while additional federal funding may be coming, it would be irresponsible to wait.
“Waiting for the federal government to act is like waiting for Santa Claus,” Warnick said. “I believe there may be some additional help from the federal government, but we shouldn’t be waiting as a state to act until the federal government may or may not give more funds.”
Warnick added that she would have preferred the governor stick with the comments he and his wife, Trudi, made when the pair addressed the state Thursday night and urged Washingtonians to cancel their holiday plans due to the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases linked to indoor gatherings.
But Republicans have been iced out of the decision-making process, Warnick said.
“(Inslee) says he’s talked to legislators — he has not talked to our caucus,” Warnick said. “We could help him with ideas. We could help him. But he’s not including us in any of this discussion.”
Mike Faulk, deputy communications director for Gov. Jay Inslee, blamed state Republicans for their lack of a seat at the table.
“Some of that has been the way their response to this has unfolded,” Faulk said. “They’ve made a lot of noise without many solutions on what they would do that would help get the people of Washington through this emergency.”
Faulk added the governor’s office has been in touch with Republican legislators, but likely not to the extent that Warnick and her colleagues would have liked. It’s also been because they’ve had little to contribute, he said.
“I think part of the reason for them being on the sidelines is partly for their own lack of ideas,” Faulk said. “The other part is just the way they’ve treated this with their rhetoric and outbursts.”
“We are also just of the opinion that our response has been very good and effective,” Faulk added.