The top Democrats in Congress are calling on President Trump to order that flags be flown at half-staff at all public buildings on the day the U.S. reaches 100,000 deaths caused by the novel coronavirus.
In a letter sent to the president on Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote that the tribute would serve as a “national expression of grief so needed by everyone.”
The letter also has a political implication, as Democrats have ripped the president for a slow response to the coronavirus that they say has raised the U.S. death toll. Trump has argued there would have been even more deaths in the U.S. without his actions, while seeking to put blame for the outbreak on China and the World Health Organization.
The U.S. could see its total number of coronavirus deaths pass the milestone soon.
As of Thursday morning, the U.S. had recorded roughly 93,400 deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to a Johns Hopkins University database. The U.S. had reported about 1.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases.
“Our hearts are broken over this great loss and our prayers are with their families,” Pelosi and Schumer said. “Respectful of them and the loss to our country, we are writing to request that you order flags to be flown at half staff on all public buildings in our country on the sad day of reckoning when we reach 100,000 deaths.”
The president reserves the right to order that flags be flown at half-staff for tragic events and the deaths of notable officials. Trump ordered U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff as a “mark of solemn respect” for the victims of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, last August.
The request from Pelosi and Schumer comes as the lawmakers have consistently criticized Trump’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. Pelosi and Trump have not spoken in months despite the pandemic and this week were hurling insults at one another.
Pelosi called Trump “morbidly obese” while criticizing his decision to take hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug that the president has touted as a potential “game-changer” in the fight to address the coronavirus despite a lack of scientific support for the conclusion.
Trump responded by calling Pelosi a “sick woman” and a “waste of time.”