White House taps members of Congress to advise on reopening economy

The last-minute nature of the task force and the call set off a scramble among members to figure out what it was and whether they wanted to participate.

Trump has also gathered leaders of the business community to advise him on when to reopen the economy, and that effort was criticized by some participants as being somewhat disorganized.

Democrats are hopeful it’s a sign that Trump will seek buy-in from across Washington in any attempts to reopen the economy — one of the government’s most consequential decisions in the pandemic.

Trump’s efforts are not without some partisan flare-ups, though — he bashed Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Twitter earlier in the day, for example. It’s also unclear how much influence the sprawling task force will have on the administration’s plans, and Trump already has a group of loyal conservative hardliners in his ear.

On an hour-long call with members of the House panel on Thursday morning, about 20 members shared ideas about reopening the country. Trump, who spoke for just a few minutes on the call, did not repeat his past demands for states to reopen as soon as May 1 — which would go against the guidance of many public health experts.

Instead, Trump spoke “respectfully” of state officials, seemed open to members’ feedback and even complimented California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose state has seen early successes in limiting the spread of the virus, according to a source on the call. Trump also told members that he would be issuing national “benchmarks” for states to help guide their own plans to reopen schools and businesses, many of which have been shuttered for weeks.

“We all talked about working together,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters. “It was a very good call … it was very productive.

During the administration call with the senators, included much discussion about testing, according to Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.). But the president also talked about the need to reopen the economy.

“That clearly came out with many senators stressing that,” Braun said in an interview, referring to the Democratic push on testing. “But no one [was] really putting the counterpoint out there other than the president and the vice president in responding… that in economics it’s called supply and demand destruction.”

A Democratic Senate aide said that Trump “wasn’t particularly antagonistic.” The president mentioned China in his opening remarks and said that he wanted to open up the economy quickly. He offered some compliments to Democrats and said he wanted to work together on getting a deal on the Paycheck Protection Program, which has now run out of funds.