On Monday, President Donald Trump got into an altercation with the media after proclaiming he had “total” authority to decide when states reopen their economies.
On Tuesday, the president reversed that statement, at least somewhat, by saying the state governors were in a better position to make that call.
Guidance over authority
When Trump made his comments on Monday, he was openly challenged by the media and some conservatives as to the actual power he has during an emergency.
When Trump stated that he had “total” authority to make the call, the best guess here is that he was looking at a very loose interpretation of the Stafford Act. Within that Act, there is a stipulation that the federal government can step in to run a local government if that local and state government infrastructure has been decimated.
When Trump declared a national disaster for all 50 states, that may have been what he had in mind, but again, that would be a very loose interpretation of that Act and one that would probably not stand up in court.
In addition to federal funding, though, the federal government can provide guidance, which is the direction the administration has suddenly pivoted.
Trump stated, “I will be speaking to all 50 governors very shortly. And I will then be authorizing each individual governor of each individual state to implement a reopening and a very powerful reopening plan of their state at a time and in a manner as most appropriate.”
The administration is also putting together a task force of business leaders to provide advice and guidance to states on how to best go about re-opening their economies.
States already moving
Several governors have already begun forming their own task forces and plans for how to reopen their states independent of federal guidance.
California Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Tuesday what steps state leadership is taking in order to begin the process of reopening but declined to give a concrete date. Newsom also announced that he has joined Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee in collaborating on how and when to begin lifting strict social distancing requirements.
Likewise, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has formed a similar coalition with the governors of New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Delaware to formulate a plan to cooperatively move towards carefully lifting restrictions.
Though there is much talk from both Trump and many state governors about planning to lift restrictions, none have been willing to commit to a timeline as of yet.