New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich planned to give President Donald Trump “sound and honest advice” about when to reopen America’s economy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Democrat was picked by the White House on Wednesday to be part of a congressional task force to advise the president on the issue. Heinrich participated in a phone call with Trump on Thursday. He said he would be participating in a similar call with Vice President Mike Pence on Friday.
“I told the president we’ve got to have more testing, and we’ve got to work with companies to increase the supply,” the senator said in a press call with members of the New Mexico media. Heinrich said he was backed up by both Democratic and Republican members of the task force.
“We need to box the virus in and get our numbers down,” Heinrich said.
He said he understood “how stressful and devastating” the emergency closures have been for small businesses, but he voiced a concern about opening too soon only to have coronavirus kick back up in the fall, which would force businesses to close again.
“Ignoring science- and evidence-based recommendations and prematurely resuming business as usual would undoubtedly risk the lives of all of us,” he said in a statement released by his office earlier in the day.
“I want to open the economy,” Heinrich said. “The key is to have a plan in place. … We’ve got to get our numbers down to where they are manageable.”
He said government officials have “a moral responsibility to make sure every single American whose life and livelihood has been upended by this crisis is made whole when this is all over.”
The senator said life can’t get back to normal and the economy can’t be fixed “until we have gotten a handle on the spread of the coronavirus.”
“That is why our primary focus must remain on the public health challenges at hand, starting with a much more comprehensive and faster testing infrastructure to track and respond to the spread of the virus,” Heinrich said.
He is one of 13 Senate Democrats on the task force, according to reports. Every Republican senator is on the task force except Mitt Romney of Utah.