Democrats representing the Washington, D.C., area are warning the Trump administration against holding another July Fourth celebration on the National Mall as the region battles the spread of the coronavirus.
Ten Democrats from the District, Maryland and Virginia wrote Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt Tuesday, urging the administration to “immediately suspend any plans” for a second July Fourth event, known as the “Salute to America.”
The nation’s capital and surrounding areas have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic and are still largely under stay-at-home orders to stop the spread of the virus. The lawmakers argued it would be impossible to safely hold another July Fourth event given the large number of people who would likely attend.
“Should the president continue with his plan to hold another ‘Salute to America’ event, it would have detrimental impacts on not only those that live in the National Capital Region, but all those who travel in from other areas of the country to attend,” the Democrats warned.
President Donald Trump told reporters last month that he still plans to hold the event despite the pandemic. Last year’s celebration included military flyovers and displays of armored vehicles as well as a speech from Trump at the Lincoln Memorial.
Trump’s desire for a large military display in the nation’s capital last year drew criticism from Democrats that the president was politicizing the military and that it would divert badly needed money and hurt military readiness.
It is unclear so far what role the military might play this year.
The lawmakers also expressed worry over the cost of another July Fourth celebration. The event last year cost the federal government and Washington, D.C., more than $5 million, including an estimated $1.2 million spent by the Pentagon. Spending more on another such event this year, they argued, would be a waste of money during the coronavirus crisis.
“The Administration, including your agencies, should be focusing on helping American families, not on a vanity project for the president,” they wrote.
The letter was organized by Rep. Don Beyer, whose northern Virginia congressional district includes the Pentagon, and signed by seven other capital-area lawmakers, including D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland also signed.