Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) a member of the President's congressional "task force" to reopen the economy gave an update on the White House's plans to reopen parts of the economy in certain states. Senator Barrasso also slammed democratic leadership for holding up (PPP) paycheck protection program funding. The $350 Billion loan program ran out of funds for small businesses, just as 5.2 million more Americans filed for unemployment benefits.

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Full Transcript:

Guy Benson: Joining me now is U.S. Senator John Barrasso. He's a Republican of Wyoming, also a medical doctor. Senator, great to have you on the show. Welcome.

Sen. Barasso: Well, thank you. I couldn't have said it better myself. What you said is absolutely right. The fact that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are blocking the paychecks of millions of Americans, Americans holding us all hostage at gunpoint essentially is unconscionable. This is blackmail at its worst. And you want it. I agree with Senator McConnell, who was just on the floor of the Senate. What you cannot imagine that at these times what our nation is going through, that these two basically old time politicians are saying, what a great time for politics as usual. It is distressing and disgusting.

Guy Benson: And senators actually kind of shocking, even given everything we know about Schumer and Pelosi, we are actually quite literally in the midst of a global pandemic. We opened the program with the update that now nearly 32 million Americans have died of this disease. We are now up to more than 20 million people who have been laid off. This is not some Republican priority. This is something that your colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle and some of your colleagues on the other side, the Democratic side of the aisle got together weeks ago and said a huge core component of the rescue bill is going to be for small businesses to make sure they can keep people on the payroll. And it's been such a popular program that it has gone through and exhausted 350 plus billion dollars in just a matter of three short weeks. We all knew that they were going to run out of money. You guys start warning about this last week. And rather than just saying, OK, this is something easy. This is a lay up that we can all agree on. The structure is there. The bipartisan support is unanimous. Let's just do it. Instead, they're saying, no, we want all these add-ons. And Senator, let me ask you this. Some of their ideas I've seen their proposals. Some of them are fine. Some of them are probably worthwhile and worth debating. That would be part of a phase four bill in legislative process. That's going to come probably relatively soon. Why not just set it aside, incorporate their ideas for phase four and get this urgent priority done today?

Sen. Barasso: I agree with you completely got a number of the things that they're talking about. I'm happy to have those discussions and the debates. Some of those dollars are just going out now to our rural hospitals or other hospitals, to the states, to the communities. They may need additional help depending on how long the health crisis that is upon us continues. But the dire need today is keeping people on the payroll, making sure they get their paychecks through this paycheck protection program, which has been so successful. And, you know, you know, the Democrats around the country have been taking credit for voting for this in a bipartisan way, and they have a right to do that. I mean, Kristen Cinema from Arizona, I was on the call with her that today with the president, as we're part of the task force looking at reopening the country. She tweeted today, let's get this passed today, additional money for the paycheck protection part. So you have bipartisan support and you have the old time classic Paul's playing politics when the country cannot afford it and they don't seem to care.

Guy Benson: You know, Senator, we actually played some audio of your floor speech during the filibuster, so I don't want to get all mired into the history of this. But three weeks ago, they delayed the whole process for three or four days, basically for nothing playing these similar games. I follow Washington relatively closely. And the U.S. Senate. I appreciate the work that you do. I'm not sure I've ever seen you as visibly agitated and angry as you were on the Senate floor during that filibuster. And I can sort of hear it in your voice. Again, as I mentioned the intro, you're a medical doctor. You're seeing both the economic side of this and also the horrible health costs of this. That has to also play into maybe part of the reason why you're taking this seemingly more personally than politics as usual.

Sen. Barasso: Well, absolutely. I was absolutely livid on the floor of the Senate when we had what we thought was a bipartisan agreement with the Democrats in the Senate. And then Nancy Pelosi swoops into town from California and says, no, the agreement that you're all working on. Not good enough for me. And she wants to include components of the Green New Deal. She wants airlines to be carbon neutral by 2025. She wants to reshape change election laws in the country. All at the time when the coronavirus crisis was hitting, our health care providers needed help in the field. Our families needed help with their paychecks, all of the things that needed to be done. And they were slowing the process. And you know, the most disturbing thing was Chuck Schumer, the Democrats got in line behind her. So if it's not good enough for Nancy, it's not good enough for them. And that was the most disturbing thing, that on Sunday and on Monday, the Democrats, each one of them came to the floor of the Senate and voted no to moving ahead with something that they had negotiated in good faith with the chairman and the ranking members of the committees over the weekend.

Guy Benson: And this is now a new round of this nonsense. And this is even more narrow. This is something it doesn't get easier. This is a two hand slam dunk on a four foot hoop for Washington, D.C. It really shouldn't be hard. And yet here we are. Senator, I do want to ask you some health related questions, because you're a doctor. Number one. Do you agree, based on the data that you're seeing, that the curve nationally is flattening? And then a second question would be, are you getting concerned about the uptick in cases that we're starting to see in some rural parts of the country?

Sen. Barasso: Well, both. I think we are at the top. Coming back down on the curve, the you know, it's interesting when you look at some of these models, the point of the highest level on the curve hasn't been reached on the calendar yet. According to the models for rural areas, the Rocky Mountain West, they say in Wyoming, at least, this is the model coming out of Washington state, the medical school there that we may not peak until May 5th. The good news, because of all that we've been doing with social distancing is less than a month ago, they predicted 240 deaths in Wyoming. But because of all that we've doing, flattening the curve. Now they're saying maybe thirty six at the most. So we have by behavioral changes alone. Well, we don't have a vaccine and don't have the treatment yet have been able to flatten the curve to the point where we may have saved hundreds of lives. Certainly in Wyoming and thousands, if not millions across the country. Had we done nothing, had the president done nothing on this? The predictions were a million and a half to two million lives lost. Now it looks like it may be less than one hundred thousand. So we had a headline story in the Casper paper. The other yesterday, about a million over a million lives saved in the United States because of action and cooperation by people doing the right thing.

Guy Benson: And Senator, look, I'm open to people who argue that the models were deeply flawed in some cases, imperfect in others, and maybe some of the projections were too draconian and scary. But I also really don't buy into this notion that while we're at 32000 deaths nationwide and that's not so bad. And the distancing in all of these closures weren't really necessary because all this has been overblown. It sounds like you reject that. It sounds like you're saying the measures that have been taken from the president's team and implemented across the country, in your medical opinion, have been hugely impactful in saving lives.

Sen. Barasso: Hugely impactful. If you talk to Bill CASSIDY, John Kennedy from Louisiana or doctors in states surrounding Louisiana and specifically New Orleans, and pinpoint timing to Mardi Gras with close contact. And many people view what you see. There is basically an explosion of cases because of so many people confined in a small area and close interpersonal relationships. The the Michigan activity, you take that in terms of how this the increase there after they had the big final political rallies before the Michigan primary, the Bernie Sanders rally, would he have 11000 people there on the campus at the University of Michigan? You take a look at the numbers where there been large congregations of people and then the peak and the spikes that occurred a couple of weeks afterwards. And I think it's absolutely what we've been doing with social distancing has saved well over a million lives.

Guy Benson: You mentioned, Senator, a moment ago and you touched on it. But I want to circle back and focus on it. You were on a phone call today with the president, the United States. In a number of your colleagues there is this congressional task force to help reopen the U.S. economy. And the president's looking at this from a business perspective. We heard some of the partners on that front at a recent press briefing. And now there's also a group in Congress charged with plotting this course forward, if you will. You're part of that working group. Can you tell us what the president tasked you with today, what he said, and without getting too far in front of him? 'Cause I know there's a big announcement coming around 6:00 p.m. Eastern today. What what should we expect to the extent that you're allowed to tell us?

Sen. Barasso: Well, there is there were bipartisan members of the committee talking today about the need to get the country open. And the best way to do it, a number of us say it is time to start now in areas where we believe it is the safest. Clearly, the better testing we have in terms of a rapid test, the better it would be, the more people that can be tested. We may not be able to wait fully until we have all testing for all people. There are places right now where, you know, Wyoming, a rural state. We have hospitals that have essentially closed their doors to elective procedures and are now sitting empty, waiting for the crush of Corona virus cases that may hopefully never come. I mean, the idea of closing down all the hospitals all around the country was so they would be available if they needed to have to take care of all of the patients who would need be done. So the question is, can people safely go while socially distancing? Get back to work and open to business to a different level than we were expecting beforehand? Can't have all the big gatherings, but we need to get open. And I know the president's going to address that tonight. He did have good news on testing a new saliva test that's coming along with work, work being done by Johnson and Johnson on vaccines. The Abbott test, which is which is increasingly available, the therapeutics, the work being done by the companies that were successful in fighting against Ebola and coming up with treatment for AIDS, that there is a lot of successful stories to tell. And I think the president's going to want to mention those tonight.

Guy Benson: Okay. And we'll be following that closely sometime in the 6:00 p.m. hour Eastern Time as the announced time, at least for the briefing today. Let me just follow up and ask you this. And it's not asked in a hostile way, but it's something that I am at least concerned about, because everything that you said makes sense to me. I think once we get into May, slowly but surely identifying low risk counties, let's say in low risk areas and say, okay, let's do this very carefully, very safely. Here's how we can start in some places to get a little bit back to normal so people can work again and people can go out and do things again. It seems to me as a non-medical expert, that you really need very robust testing to have confidence in those in those assessments of what areas are safe to do this in. And I guess the question is we've heard some criticism and that there's still a lag here. Are you satisfied with the state of the testing regime nationwide where you think it's safe to start doing this soon?

Sen. Barasso: I've never been 100 percent satisfied with the state of the testing nationwide. And but it is getting better, much better. What you just prop appropriately, he said county by county. And the vise president on the call today and Secretary Manoogian was there as well. The previous president talked about the fact that they have the numbers down to the county levels. So they opening it up, as you well, we talked about, is something that may be done at that level as well. I'd like more testing the the areas where that guy's a doctor or a health care professional. I'm always from the want to get the next test. I want to make sure of this. We're very soon approaching that level.

Guy Benson: OK. We'll have to leave it there for now as we're out of time, it's U.S. Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming. Also a medical doctor. Senator, really enjoyed this. Please come back.

Sen. Barasso: I'll be happy anytime I get to talk with the Lee Atwater outstanding young conservative award winner. I'm happy to do it.

Guy Benson: Thank you, Senator. Really appreciate that. He's a he's a dual threat. Senator Barrasso is a senator and a doctor. And in these times, it's a valuable common combination for our listeners. All right. We've got to take a break. We'll take it and we'll come right back on the Guy Benson Show after this.