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Georgia feud spotlights Republican divide over reopening economy

Even Trump drew the line at Kemp’s aggressive plan, saying that it’s too “soon” and making his frustrations known to the governor. GOP members of Congress were quick to follow suit, arguing that officials should reopen the economy in phases.

Collins on Thursday accused Kemp of “not communicating clearly” amid the coronavirus outbreak and failing to solicit input from local leaders.

“The president wants the country open. I want the country open. The governor wants the country open. The problem is, how do you do it? And I think that’s the problem with leadership,” Collins told “Fox & Friends.”

“Leadership is about communicating,” he continued, “and when you are not communicating clearly — look, the governor did not take away the stay-at-home order, but yet selectively decided certain businesses are going to open up.”

Kemp said Monday some establishments in Georgia shuttered by the outbreak — including bowling alleys, gyms, hair salons and tattoo parlors — could reopen as early as Friday if owners adhere to stringent social- distancing and hygiene requirements. Next Monday, movie theaters may also reopen and restaurants will be allowed to return to limited dine-in service.

But the governor’s plan seemingly contradicts his own statewide stay-at-home order, which expires April 30, as well as federal social-distancing guidance. Georgia also has yet to report a two-week downward trend in coronavirus symptoms and documented cases — one of the basic benchmarks for easing restrictions, according to the White House.

At Thursday evening’s coronavirus briefing, Trump went even further in his disapproval of Kemp.

“I want the states to open more than he does. Much more than he does,” the president said. “But I didn’t like to see spas at this early stage. Nor did the doctors.”

“I didn’t like to see a lot of things happening, and I wasn’t happy with it,” he added. “And I wasn’t happy with Brian Kemp.”

While Kemp’s plan won support from his home state GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler, Collins’ rival in the November Senate special election, several congressional Republicans are instead pushing for a more gradual process, depending on the virus’ effect on different regions.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said he agreed with Trump’s concerns about Georgia reopening too quickly and urged Kemp to follow the White House’s guidelines released last week. Meanwhile, Indiana Sen. Mike Braun is advocating for reopening the economy, but suggesting states should adopt a county-by-county approach.

“I’m not necessarily a believer that you should have a one-size-fits-all, even across the state,” Braun said in an interview. “For the governor of Georgia, for instance, it seems to me that it would have made sense to do things in your safer counties first and then roll it into the Atlanta metro area.”

Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey on Thursday released his own three-phase plan to reopen his state’s economy. His proposal comes one day after Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf also announced a framework.

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