Graham: Dems Seizing on Coronavirus to Grow Government; Trump Wants to 'Help the Economy'

Susan Jones | March 12, 2020 | 5:48am EDT
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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) (Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) (Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

( - Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) described President Donald Trump's speech to the nation Wednesday night as "an economic vaccine."

"If we will follow his lead -- I'm not so sure about the payroll tax (suspension) yet -- but everything else he said made sense to me to stabilize the economy and prevent the spread of the virus."

Graham said he hopes the president will not sign off on "some Democratic package coming out of the House tomorrow, that won't grow the economy but will grow the size of the government.

"We don't need economic stimulus for the federal government. We need economic stimulus for the American people, and they are going to want to grow government and what the president wants to do is help the economy," Graham said:

He's asking banks to be involved. He wants to increase the amount of money the small business administration can loan to people to get back on their feet. Look and see what Democrats do tomorrow.

I think they're going to grow government programs. They haven't talked to anybody in the private sector about what we can do to stabilize the economy. Their reaction unfortunately is going to be to grow the government.

The president's action is try to create a partnership between the government and private sector to stabilize the economy and he realizes more than any president in my lifetime that the strength of the American economy and American people is in the private sector, not our government.

In addition to suspending travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days, effective Friday at midnight, President Trump on Wednesday night promised relief to "working Americans impacted by the virus," saying they "can stay home without fear of financial hardship."

Trump said he will take "emergency action" to provide financial relief: "This will be targeted for workers who are ill, quarantined, or caring for others due to coronavirus. I will be asking Congress to take legislative action to extend this relief," he said.

(Trump later tweeted that he's "hoping to get the payroll tax cut approved by both Republicans and Democrats.")

The "unprecedented" emergency measures come in addition to the $8.3 billion funding bill President Trump signed last week to help the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other government agencies deal with the coronavirus outbreak by developing vaccines, treatments, testing capabilities, and other measures.

Democrats on Wednesday introduced a bill called the "Families First Coronavirus Response Act," which would provide:

-- Free coronavirus testing for everyone who needs a test
-- Paid emergency leave for worker
-- Enhanced unemployment insurance
-- Strengthened food security initiatives (Expanded SNAP, WIC, school lunch programs)
-- Protections for frontline workers
-- Increased federal funds for Medicaid

The House is expected to pass that bill on Thursday.

In his appearance on Fox News Wednesday night, Sen. Graham said coronavirus cases are "like an airplane crash," while the flu is like a "car wreck."

"We have a lot of car wrecks. People die in car wrecks but it doesn't get much coverage. Every time somebody gets infected with the coronavirus, it's like an airplane crash. That's just the way the media has treated this. They treat the coronavirus like a series of airplane crashes.”

"And all I can say about the president, if you've got a better idea, come forward."

Democrats have criticized President Trump's response to the crisis, from the rollout of coronavirus testing to his concerns about the economy. In short, Trump can do nothing right, no matter what he does or doesn't do, according to Democrats.

For example, immediately after Trump's speech Wednesday night, Trump nemesis Jim Acosta faulted Trump for using the phrase "foreign virus" in his speech, even though COVID-19 originated in China:

"The other thing, Chris, that I think we should point out, at one point during this address the president referred to the coronavirus as a quote, foreign virus. That, I think, was interesting because as I was talking to sources this evening, one of the points that the president wanted to make tonight, wanted to get across to Americans, is that this virus did not start here, but that they're dealing with it.

Now why the president would go as far as to describe it as a foreign virus, that is something we'll also be asking questions about.

But it should be pointed out that Stephen Miller, who is an immigration hardliner who advises the president, is one of his top domestic policy advisers and speech writers, was a driving force in writing this speech and I think it's going to smack -- come across to a lot of Americans as smacking of xenophobia to use that kind of term in this speech, Chris.

(CNN's Chris Cuomo agreed that Trump used the phrase "to put blame somewhere else.")


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