Washington — A group of Democratic lawmakers from the Washington, D.C., area are raising concerns with President Trump's plans to have a second Fourth of July celebration in the nation's capital due to the coronavirus pandemic, urging the Trump administration to put plans for the event on hold.
Maryland's two senators and eight House Democrats who represent the capital region warned Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt that holding the parade as the region continues its recovery from the coronavirus crisis would have "detrimental impacts" on those who live in the area, as well as those who would travel to Washington to attend the parade.
"Given the current COVID-19 crisis, we believe that such an event would needlessly risk the health and safety of thousands of Americans," they wrote in a letter to Esper and Bernhardt. "Further, this event would come at the cost of millions of taxpayer dollars while we are facing an unprecedented economic downturn due to the pandemic."
The Democrats said that last year's "Salute to America" event brought thousands of visitors to the nation's capital and warned that if attendance is similar this year, it would be difficult to follow best practices for public gatherings and social distancing guidelines. While the District of Columbia, Virginia and Maryland are moving toward allowing businesses to reopen and easing restrictions, the region remains under stay-at-home orders.
The lawmakers also reminded Esper and Bernhardt that public transportation in the D.C. region has been scaled back and said "logistically such an event would be impossible to put on safely."
Last year's military parade cost $5.4 million, including more than $2.4 million from the Department of Interior and $1.2 million from the Pentagon. But the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the U.S. economy, and Democrats say the event would be "financially wasteful" and could put further economic strain on federal agencies.
"The administration, including your agencies, should be focusing on helping American families, not on a vanity project for the president," they said.
Mr. Trump told reporters last month he plans to hold his July Fourth celebration again.
"We'll be doing what we had at the Mall," he said. "We're going to be doing it. Last year was a tremendous success and I would imagine we'll do it, hopefully I can use the term 'forever.'"
White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement this year's event will look different from last year's to protect the health and safety of attendees.
"The American people have shown tremendous courage and spirit in the fight against this global pandemic just as our forefathers did in the fight to secure our independence, and both deserve celebration on America's birthday this year," he said.