Gov. Jay Inslee’s decision to impose new restrictions on businesses and social gatherings for the next month in an effort to slow the rising number of coronavirus cases in Washington was not a political one.
“Inaction here is not an option,” he said.
We agree. We are all — or, at least, should be — in the battle to curb COVID-19 together.
Yet, Inslee, a Democrat, could have done a lot to bridge the political divide over COVID-19 restrictions by including the state’s top Republican lawmakers in the decision-making process.
On Sunday, Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville released a statement in which he concurred with Inslee that rising COVID-19 cases and the potential that a third wave of the pandemic could overload hospital capacity.
But he also stated that he believes the governor should have consulted GOP leaders to come up with bipartisan plans to slow the pandemic.
“There would likely be far more widespread support for safety measures if they weren’t being dictated to us by one man,” Schoesler said in the statement.
Schoesler is correct.
While Inslee does not have to legally reach out to Republicans, who are in the minority in the House and Senate, to establish the new restrictions, it might have helped garner public support for such things as banning indoor service in restaurants and bars for the next month.
“(Inslee) says he’s talked to legislators — he has not talked to our caucus,” Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, told the Columbia Basin Herald newspaper. “We could help him with ideas. We could help him. But he’s not including us in any of this discussion.”
A spokesman for the Governor’s Office, Mike Faulk, told the Herald that Republicans have not had a seat at the table because of their lack of cooperation thus far.
We can’t dispute that perception. Discussions of any kind between Democrats and Republicans during this election year have been caustic.
Nevertheless, while reaching out to Republicans might have felt pointless (or worse, like banging his head on the Capitol’s marble walls), Inslee should have done so.
It’s past time to end this political divide over fighting against COVID-19.
This is not — and never should have been — a partisan issue. Washington and the nation are facing a public health crisis.
Democrats in Washington state hold all the power, but if they want all of Washington to pull together they would be wise to make a stronger effort to include Republicans in discussing solutions.