U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who represents Northwest Florida in Congress, has been appointed by President Donald Trump to a congressional committee advising the president on the reopening of the U.S. economy in light of the sperading coronavirus.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who represents Northwest Florida in Congress, has been tapped by President Donald Trump to serve on a bipartisan congressional group advising the president on reopening the American economy as the nation continues to deal with COVID-19, the serious respiratory illness caused by the spreading new coronavirus.
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Gaetz, a staunch ally of the president, is among the 22 Republican House members appointed to the sprawling group, which also includes 10 House Democrats. Senate members of the committee include all Republican senators, with the exception of Utah’s Mitt Romney, the lone Republican to vote for Trump’s impeachment earlier this year. Twelve Senate Democrats also serve on the group.
I’m honored to be named to @POTUS’s Opening Up America Again Congressional Group.
I will be working closely with President @realDonaldTrump and his administration to reopen our country and reignite the economic vitality America has enjoyed under his leadership.
“I’m extremely honored to be named to President Trump’s Opening Up America Again Congressional Group,” Gaetz said in a statement released Friday from his office. “... I have full confidence in President Trump as he leads our nation through this pandemic.”
On Friday, responding to a list of emailed questions, Gaetz said he expects that decisions on reopening the country won’t be a one-size-fits-all proposition, both in terms of a timetable for reopening the economy, and how the economy will be reopened.
“Different states have been affected differently by the virus, so the timetable for opening New York will necessarily be different from the timetable for reopening North Dakota,” Gaetz wrote.
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Similarly, there will be differences in how the various sections of the country will reopen, Gaetz said, noting that “there is simply too much variability between states for a one-size-fits-all approach to be feasible, practical, or practicable. By necessity, decisions have to be made on a local, state, and regional level.”
The resources of the federal government will be helpful in reopening the economy, Gaetz said. But, he added, “the federal government is, at best, a blunt instrument — state and local leaders know the needs (and the status) of their constituents better than Washington, D.C., does.”
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Asked what would inform his recommendations or decisions on reopening the American economy, Gaetz said the country “will need to see a downward trajectory of influenza-like and COVID-like cases over a suitable amount of time.” According to Gaetz, the White House guidance suggesting a two-week downward trajectory “seems sensible.”
But, the congressman went on to say, “(i)t’s important to remember that the goal of ’flattening the curve’ (reducing the number of COVID-19 cases to at least a manageable level) was to prevent health systems from being critically overburdened, so we also have to take into account hospital utilization and capacity ... .”
“We don’t want to reopen places that are teetering on the edge of having overburdened hospitals,” Gaetz explained, going on to say that “(w)e are not overburdened in Northwest Florida.”
In another thought on the medical front, Gaetz said officials will “also need to ensure that any place planning to reopen has a robust testing program in place for its front-line and at-risk workers, particularly healthcare staff.”
Gaetz went on to tout telecommuting — the large numbers of people working from home — as an ongoing tool for minimizing COVID-19 risks.
“One thing we’ve seen over the past few weeks is that telecommuting has been a viable solution for many people,” Gaetz said, “so for a great many Americans, the choice is not between ’returning to the office’ and ’not working ... .’” Technology, Gaetz said, “will continue to help a great many Americans minimize risk as we work to reopen the economy.”
Gaetz’s appointment to the Opening Up America Again Congressional Group came as media outlets were reporting, as USA TODAY noted from a Politico report, that “Gaetz has been renting office space (in Pensacola, where he maintains a regional congressional office), with taxpayer money, from a longtime friend, donor and former legal client, despite House of Representatives rules against such practices.”
Also according to the USA TODAY report, “Gaetz and (Pensacola) real estate developer Collier Merrill both told Politico in interviews that the property is being rented below a market rate, but Gaetz later tweeted it is ’at or below market rate.’"
Gaetz took to Twitter to address the Politico report, calling it a “smear piece” and going on to note in one tweet in his personal account, “The scandalous oppo (opposition research) they’ve dumped: I have an office lease at or below market rate, approved by the House ... .”
Elsewhere in his personal Twitter account, Gaetz suggests that the reporting on his office lease “Busts me (for) (1) having a friend (2) maybe getting a bargain 4 taxpayers ... .”