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Governors Have 'Abused Their Authority' and It's Time for AG Barr to Intervene, House Republicans Say

Governors Have 'Abused Their Authority' and It's Time for AG Barr to Intervene, House Republicans Say
Michigan Office of the Governor via AP

On Friday, House Republicans introduced a resolution condemning state and local leaders who have “abused their authority” during the coronavirus crisis by “picking winners and losers” and shutting down businesses. The Republicans called on Attorney General William Barr to review coronavirus lockdowns and restrictions across the U.S. and to take action against those that violate Americans’ constitutional rights.

“The U.S. Constitution is just as relevant and worth protecting during a national crisis as it during times of peace. We cannot use the hysteria surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak to provide a pass to state and local leaders who are abusing their authority to shut down their economies, restrict the free movement of American citizens, and impose draconian penalties that far exceed the seriousness of the action,” Rep. Andy Biggs, (R-Ariz.), who introduced the resolution, exclusively told Fox News, which broke the story about the resolution.

“I call on Attorney General Barr to continue reviewing these restricting orders and I call on Americans to stand united in the fight for their inherent rights,” he added.

The resolution declares that “in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Governors and local officials across the Nation have abused their authority by infringing on the constitutional rights of Americans, ordering private businesses to close, requiring citizens to stay in their homes, and imposing draconian punishments for violations.”

“These officials picked winners and losers using subjective rationale to determine which businesses and activities are essential to the public and prohibiting the purchase of products they do not believe to be life-sustaining,” the resolution adds. Even though “Americans across the country are calling on leaders to provide relief through reopening the economy … many leaders are rebuffing the demands of the people and imposing heavy-handed punishments on individuals trying to provide for their families.”

The resolution references many specific abuses of power. The congressman cite Shelley Luther, the salon owner who was sentenced to seven days in jail for opening her business despite coronavirus lockdown orders — and was recently released by order of the Texas Supreme Court. They cite the Los Angeles paddleboarder arrested last month. They cite Temple Baptist Church, which “was cited by police for holding a drive-in worship service at which church members remained in their cars with their windows rolled up and listened to their pastor over the radio, while nearby drive-in restaurants were simultaneously allowed to serve food to customers.” The mayor later dropped his utterly nonsensical ban on drive-in church services after the Department of Justice got involved.

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The resolution also cites the tyrannical Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.), who “prohibited large, open retailers from selling gardening supplies, which would allow Americans to safely grow their own food at home, saying, ‘If you’re not buying food or medicine or other essential items, you should not be going to the store.'”

Republicans also reference Rick Savage, the owner of Sunday River Brewing Company in Bethel, Maine, who “was stripped of his State health and liquor licenses for opening his restaurant on May 1, 2020, the date Maine’s initial restrictions were scheduled to end, despite implementing social distancing practices.” They also cite the 32 protesters who were arrested in Sacramento, Calif., on May 1, for having the nerve to exercise their First Amendment rights and protest stay-at-home orders.

The resolution states that the House of Representatives “finds that States and localities should not make criminals out of individuals attempting to save their business and support their families and employees by operating an otherwise legal business and following recommended social distancing practices.”

The resolution also “condemns the decisions of State and local leaders to become the referee of the economy by picking winners and losers,” and calls on Barr “to review all restricting orders … and to act against those that infringe on America’s constitutional or statutory protections.” Finally, it calls on “States to restore the liberty and responsibility that every American inherently possesses.”

Reps. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), Ron Wright (R-Texas), Andy Harris (R-Md.), Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Jody Hice (R-Ga.), Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) co-sponsored the resolution.

It seems unlikely Democrats will support the resolution, despite the many abuses of power across the country. After all, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has refused to return the House to business. Biggs condemned Pelosi for refusing to go back to work.

While the resolution is unlikely to pass in the House, Attorney General Barr has already stepped up. The Department of Justice has filed statements of interest supporting Americans’ rights during the crisis. In addition to the Temple Baptist Church case, the DOJ stood up for a Virginia church’s rights against Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.).

Americans are fearing for their lives and their livelihoods in this crisis. According to a recent study, the anxiety from the coronavirus and from the lockdowns may cost more years of life than the lockdowns could possibly hope to save. While lockdowns are necessary in some areas of the country, state and local governments cannot infringe on Americans’ fundamental rights.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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