There is not likely to be a meeting between Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and the state Senate’s Freedom Caucus, if a Thursday response from Inslee press secretary Mike Faulk is any indication.
Inslee had said in a press conference that he would be willing to meet with Republicans and discuss the numbers between his pandemic COVID-19-related policies. The Senate Freedom Caucus, made up of a subset of the state’s Republican senators, sent a letter requesting that meeting.
“The letter froths with duplicity, so I don’t think it’s a serious entreaty,” Faulk said in an email to The Center Square asking if such a meeting would take place. “The numbers aren’t ‘the governor’s COVID numbers,’ they’re IHME’s, DOH’s and CDC’s ‘COVID numbers,’ respectively, and each makes their modeling research publicly available.”
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation is an independent global health research center at the University of Washington. DOH and CDC stand for the state Department of Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We are writing because we would like to accept the generous offer you extended at your news conference of Feb. 28, 2022,” the March 2 letter from the Senate Freedom Caucus begins. “At that news conference, in response to a reporter’s question, you stated that you would be willing to sit down with Republicans and show them your numbers regarding COVID justifying the continuance of the declaration. You stated, ‘I will be happy to talk to them about the numbers.’”
At the news conference announcing a new timeline for the end of the state mask mandate, Inslee was asked about Republicans wanting him to give up his emergency powers he has exercised for more than two years now in response to the pandemic.
In his reply, Inslee complained that Washington state Republicans following former President Donald Trump have hindered the state’s response to the virus.
“If they want to sit down with me and look at the numbers, I am hopeful – I am very willing to talk with them,” Inslee said. “They are open. They are available. The numbers are the numbers. There is no question about this. They just want to – they have always wanted to follow Donald Trump. That’s the central problem here.”
The governor then unleashed a laundry list of criticisms against the former president and supportive Republican state legislators.
“They’ve always wanted to follow Donald Trump – that’s the central problem here – who first said this [COVID-19] was going to be over by Easter,” Inslee said. “Then he told us you could take horse deworming products. And has always diminished our ability, and who refused to help the state of Washington when I asked him to help. And the Republicans in this state have followed him and continue to follow him. And continue to refuse to stand up to his coup attempt.”
Later, Inslee went on to say, “With all due respect, I will be happy to talk to them about the numbers.”
Faulk clarified what the governor meant.
“The governor said he would listen to rational, science-based arguments for COVID mitigation from Republican legislators,” Faulk explained. “In other words, he was asking for their numbers and their justifications for changing a pandemic response that saved thousands of lives.”
Washington state has the fifth lowest COVID-19 death rate per capita – 158 per 100,000 people – in the country, according to Statista, a company specializing in market and consumer data.
Sen. Jeff Wilson – a member of the Freedom Caucus, along with Sens. Phil Fortunato, Mike Padden, and Jim McCune – didn’t buy the response from the Governor’s Office.
“I am flabbergasted, and everyone else should be, too,” he said via email. “Anyone who watches that news conference can see it for themselves. The governor offered to sit down with Republicans and discuss the COVID numbers he says justify his continued emergency authority. He must have thought no one would call him on it. Well, we did, and now he’s trying to backtrack.”
Wilson continued, “I hope everyone in the state takes note of this. He flung down a challenge he thought no one would respond to, and when someone did, he said, oh never mind.”
He said that this would have been “the first time the governor has deigned to discuss his decision-making process with Republicans in a cooperative and constructive way” and added, “We were looking forward to it. It would have been refreshing.”
Wilson characterized the offer and then refusal to meet as “the kind of Pinocchio-nosed leadership the state has had throughout this COVID crisis” and opined that “the governor needs to relinquish his powers immediately.”
The back-and-forth between the governor and the Freedom Caucus could be a moot point, Faulk suggested.
“The mask mandate is over after Friday,” he said. “Much of the emergency response that will remain in place focuses on getting people tests, vaccines and health care with all appropriate speed. The remaining restrictions only apply to those positions covered by the vaccine mandate and masks for congregate settings like hospitals and correctional facilities.”
This article was originally posted on Inslee spokesman balks at meeting Senate GOP to talk COVID numbers, emergency powers