Powerful GOP allies propel Trump effort to reopen economy

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People protest against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay-at-home order due to the coronavirus outbreak Wednesday, April 15, 2020, in downtown Lansing, Mich. at the State Capitol. (Matthew Dae Smith/ Lansing State Journal via AP)

WASHINGTON – Leading Republicans say the coronavirus shutdown cannot go on. Car-honking activists swarmed a statehouse Wednesday to protest stay-home restrictions. Capitol Hill staff are quietly drafting bills to undo the just-passed rescue aid and push Americans back to work.

Behind President Donald Trump's effort to accelerate re-opening the U.S. economy during the pandemic is a contingent of GOP allies eager to have his back.

“It’s very much time to start having that conversation and start figuring that out,” said Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who has shared his views with Trump.

The push to revive the economy is being influenced and amplified by a potent alliance of big money business interests, religious freedom conservatives and small-government activists, some with direct dial to Trump. They are gaining currency as a counter-point to the health professionals who warn of potentially deadly consequences from easing coronavirus stay-home restrictions too soon.

The mobilization is reminiscent of the tea party rebellion a decade ago, when conservatives roared against federal intervention in recession recovery. It’s drawing a similar band of deficit hawks alarmed by the $2.2 trillion rescue package, religious congregants who say their right to worship is being violated and conservative lawmakers warning of a slide toward big government “socialism” with expanded safety net programs.

“How do you rein in some of the tyrannical enforcement?” said Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, in a radio interview.

Economist Stephen Moore is leading a new coalition to fire up activists nationwide. The conservative Heritage Foundation put forward a five-point re-opening plan. Republicans discuss options almost weekly on the House GOP’s private conference calls.

“It’s about promoting liberty and freedom,” Moore said. “It’s about stopping spending that will bankrupt the country and getting the $20 trillion engine that is the American economy started again as soon as possible — as in tomorrow.”