Republicans who control the Minnesota Senate pushed back Thursday against some of Gov. Tim Walz’s executive orders that aim to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said Walz’s decision to change unemployment rules without legislative approval “does not appear to pass constitutional standard.” Other Republicans questioned the need for blanket closings of restaurants and other businesses, saying it could do grave economic harm in rural areas that so far have been little touched by COVID-19.

“While we understand the necessity of Governor Walz to lead in this time of crisis, that leadership should not be unilateral and unchecked,” Gazelka said in a statement.

Gazelka’s statement came amid growing signs of GOP discontent with Walz’s previous ex­ec­u­tive ord­ers temporarily closing bars, res­tau­rants and oth­er busi­nes­ses. It also comes as the administration mulls new safety measures, including requiring Minnesotans to shelter in place.

Several lawmakers, all Republicans, have expressed concerns about the impact of Walz’s orders on small businesses in their towns in Greater Minnesota.

“The gov­er­nor’s ord­er puts these small busi­nes­ses in an im­pos­si­ble po­si­tion,” state Sen. Scott New­man, R-Hutch­in­son, said in a state­ment addressing the closings in the hospitality industry. “These small busi­nes­ses, and their many hour­ly wage earn­ers, will un­doubt­ed­ly suf­fer be­cause of this ord­er. I urge the gov­er­nor to re­con­sid­er the fi­nan­cial im­pact of his ord­er on small busi­ness own­ers that con­cur­rent­ly has the po­ten­tial to make them crimi­nals for sim­ply try­ing to earn a liv­ing.”

New­man is one of at least eight Senate Re­pub­lic­ans ques­tion­ing the Democratic gov­er­nor’s use of ex­ec­u­tive pow­er and its im­pact on the rural economy. Rep. Mary Franson, R-Al­ex­an­dri­a, weighed in on Twit­ter, saying “where is the statu­tory au­thor­i­ty?” after Walz’s order closing most public eateries.

“The Walmarts and Tar­gets of the world get to stay open,” she later tweet­ed. “Small busi­ness, the back­bone of the ec­on­omy is shut down.”

While none of the Min­ne­so­ta lawmakers have pub­lic­ly ques­tioned the se­ver­i­ty of the out­break, the crit­i­cism fol­lows par­ti­san snip­ing in Wash­ing­ton a­bout Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s in­itial dec­la­ra­tions min­i­miz­ing the vi­rus threat — a skep­ti­cism he has a­ban­doned in re­cent days. Some na­tion­al polls also show that Re­pub­lic­ans, as a whole, are less con­cerned a­bout the virus threat.

In Min­ne­so­ta, where lawmakers quick­ly came to­gether to u­nan­i­mous­ly ap­prove a $200 mil­lion aid pack­age, the de­bate has fo­cused main­ly on the im­pact of temporary closures on the ec­on­omy. Gazelka said in an inter­view with WCCO Radio Tues­day that he is “con­cerned a­bout what hap­pens with our small busi­nes­ses.”

“I’ve had many people reach­ing out say­ing this is crip­pling us,” he said. “We don’t know if we can sur­vive if this hap­pens for any length of time.”

But the East Gull Lake Republican stopped short of crit­i­ciz­ing Walz di­rect­ly, say­ing he doesn’t want to “se­cond guess” the gov­er­nor. He said while there’s “no per­fect an­swer here,” legis­la­tive lead­ers and Walz con­tin­ue to work to­gether to ad­dress the cri­sis.

“The gov­er­nor is try­ing to make the best de­ci­sions he can, not know­ing the fu­ture,” he said. “Would some of my de­ci­sions be dif­fer­ent? I can’t say be­cause I don’t have the in­for­ma­tion he has.”

Not all Re­pub­lic­ans have been criti­cal. Rep. Pat Gar­o­fa­lo, R-Farmington, called the clo­sures “pain­ful — but noth­ing com­pared to what a col­lapse of health care sys­tem would bring.” And even many Re­pub­lic­ans crit­i­ciz­ing the ord­er also ap­plaud­ed the swift and bi­par­ti­san na­ture of the virus re­sponse.

Sen. An­drew Math­ews, R-Prince­ton, said that while he ap­preci­at­ed the “end goal” of curb­ing the vi­rus, he wor­ries a­bout “hit­ting the fami­lies em­ployed at small busi­nes­ses all over” his cen­tral Min­ne­so­ta dis­trict.

“If this is lim­it­ed to just 10 days, per­haps the ma­jor­i­ty of small busi­nes­ses could hang on and sur­vive,” Ma­thews said. “If this drags on for weeks or months, I won­der if these ac­tions will cause last­ing dam­age.”

Walz’s order on bars and restaurants followed his decision to close public schools. It also extends to a range of ven­ues that at­tract crowds or bring peo­ple to­gether in close quar­ters, in­clud­ing brew­er­ies, cof­fee shops, gyms, spas and theaters.

To mit­i­gate the strain on em­ploy­ers and work­ers, the ad­min­is­tra­tion ex­pand­ed un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fit el­i­gi­bil­i­ty and de­ferred month­ly sales tax pay­ments due this week.

Walz has de­fend­ed the ac­tions, which fol­low top pub­lic health officials’ guid­ance to lim­it and dis­cour­age pub­lic gath­er­ings.

“I hear that pain of those small-busi­ness own­ers, but the fact of the mat­ter is, not a sin­gle health care ex­pert in the state, not a sin­gle ep­i­de­mi­ol­o­gist, agrees with them that we should have done in that way,” Walz said Wednesday. “There’s going to be hard de­ci­sions to make here, I would just ask them, there will be plen­ty of time to crit­i­cize me and run ads a­bout that in time, but come and ask a­bout this. Try and come to us.”

Legislative leaders and the Walz administration are weighing further actions to curb the spread of infection. Options could include additional executive orders, including a requirement that Minnesotans shelter in place, essentially requiring people to stay in their homes except for essential business.

Gazelka said Thursday the Senate plans to return from its virtual recess and resume some committee hearings so it can “pass important and timely legislation.”

Gar­o­fa­lo urged colleagues to recognize the seriousness of the situation and em­brace a bal­anced ap­proach.

“Dur­ing this epi­dem­ic we can BOTH ac­cept tem­po­rary lim­its on our per­son­al freedoms and re­main vigi­lant against ef­forts to per­ma­nent­ly ex­pand gov­ern­ment pow­er,” he tweet­ed. “The key word is bal­ance. Trust lead­ers who com­mu­ni­cate bal­ance. Be skep­ti­cal of those who ad­vo­cate other­wise.”