A bipartisan collection of elected officials from both the House and Senate have been invited to join President Donald Trump’s “Opening Up America Congressional Group,” and only one Republican senator — Mitt Romney of Utah — was excluded, Fox News reported.
A spokesperson for Sen. Romney’s office confirmed that the senator had not been invited by the White House to participate.
Given the bitter feud between Trump and Romney that dates back prior to the 2016 election — culminating in Romney being the only Republican to vote with Democrats to convict Trump during the impeachment trial in February — the snub isn’t all that surprising.
Congress’ role in reopening the country
The White House issued a media release documenting the details of a Thursday conference call between the president and members of his administration and the congressional group, which includes roughly two-thirds of the Senate plus 32 members of the House.
The release noted that the president hosted the call and stated, “The President announced that he will soon provide guidance to America’s Governors to determine their ability to reignite the economies in their respective States.”
It then went on to note what had been discussed in terms of what President Trump believed the congress should be focused on as part of the effort to get the nation back up and running again in the near future.
“The dialogue between the President, senior Administration officials, and the bipartisan group of Members of Congress also included a range of topics, namely the need for additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, the international and domestic supply chains, ways to energize the economy, surprise medical billing, clarifying the difference between essential and non-essential workers, mental health, and relief for small businesses,” the release stated.
“Additionally, the Opening Up America Again Congressional Group discussed the rapidly expanding access to COVID-19 diagnostic and anti-body tests, ventilators, face masks, and other PPE,” the release added.
The 97 members of Congress in the group — 65 from the Senate plus 32 from the House — include 12 Senate Democrats, plus an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, as well as 10 House Democrats, according to the release.
Exclusions shouldn’t be a surprise
It is no surprise that Trump excluded Romney and most Democrats from the group, and the only people who will be truly shocked by that turn of events will be those who haven’t been paying attention for the past couple of years.
That said, it is good that the president did reach out to include a number of Democrats in the group — some of whom are willing to reach across the aisle in the spirit of compromise, others who wield influence over others in their party — as the gesture will, hopefully, result in some goodwill and help move along the recovery process.
Later on Thursday during his daily press briefing, Trump announced his guidelines for a three-phase plan to reopen the economy, which he said will be a “gradual process.” Read them here.