The country’s lawmakers, mainly Republicans, are trying to strip the powers of governors, many of whom are Democrats, who have assumed extraordinary power to combat the pandemic.
In Washington, partisan warfare over pandemic lockdowns and mask-wearing is on the wane: A bitter presidential election has been determined, coronavirus cases are declining nationally and vaccinations are slowly but steadily rolling out.
Yet the politicized battles are boiling over in state capitols.
State lawmakers around the nation, most of them Republicans, are actively moving to strip the powers of governors, mostly Democrats, who have been granted unprecedented authority for nearly a year to restrict the spread of the virus.
Legislatures in more than 30 states are seeking to curb the authority of governors to act unilaterally in a kind of rear-guard action in broad emergencies that have typically been declared in brief bursts following hurricanes, tornadoes or similar disasters. Republicans aim to exploit many Americans’ pervasive fatigue against closed schools, collecting restrictions, and masking mandates as a political cudgel to use against Democrats.
Lawmakers frame the problem as one of checks and balances, arguing that too many facets of people’s lives have acquired too much power from governors. These lawmakers are calling for a say on how long an emergency can last and are demanding that far-reaching directives such as closing schools and businesses be consulted.
Yet governors say that the committee will not fight a pandemic. They argue that public health can not be trusted by the same Republicans who politicised the science of the pandemic last year, joining former President Donald J. Trump in fighting a new fight in the culture wars.