By LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump enters Tuesday facing questions about his reasons for posting a late-night tweet announcing he will sign an executive order temporarily suspending legal immigration to the U.S. — as some parts of the country start opening up and others continue to fight a worsening battle against the novel coronavirus and its unprecedented health and economic impacts.
After weeks of back and forth on a national stage, criticizing and complimenting each other’s response to the pandemic, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, the state hit hardest by the COVID-19, is visiting President Trump at the White House Tuesday just before the daily coronavirus task force briefing.
At Monday’s briefing, Vice President Mike Pence reinforced that states will be responsible for their own testing and that every one in the U.S. has the capacity to enter “phase one” of reopening, despite a chorus of governors’ continued complaints with the testing supply chain, and although some states reopening do not meet the “gating criteria” like a decrease in cases for 14 days.
Trump said the U.S. was already doing “the maximum” — and claimed some people say that that much testing isn’t needed.
States looking to reopen may not necessarily be meeting the White House guidelines, said White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx, but it’s up to governors to makes those decisions, and many Republican-led southern states are leading the way on reopening.
Here are the latest developments in the government response:
Largest nurses union in US protests in front of White House for personal protective equipment
Donning masks and practicing social distancing, roughly 20 members of the largest nurses union in the U.S. protested at the White House on Tuesday to demand additional funding for mass production of personal protective equipment in the next coronavirus relief package.
“We have a federal government that is failing nurses,” one protester, citing the tens of thousands of health care workers who have become infected with COVID-19.
Representatives of National Nurses United, or NNU, held photos and read aloud the names of 48 registered nurses who have died from COVID-19 as hospitals across the country struggle to provide masks, gowns, gloves, shoe coverings and other equipment for staffers.
The union is calling on Congress to include a mandatory emergency temporary standard for health care workers — mandating they’re provided with PPE — in its next COVID-19 legislative package, and on President Trump to fully exercise use of the Defense Production Act to produce PPE as he’s done with ventilators.
“There have been three COVID-19 packages passed in Congress and not one has earmarked any COVID funds for healthcare workers’ PPE in any of those packages,” the protester added. “The president has not fully exercised the Defense Production Act to produce badly needed PPE — and the CDC continues to weaken its COVID-19 guidance for facilities.”
The CDC has issued guidance for asymptomatic health care workers deemed essential to return to work and for the reuse of cloth gowns and masks after sanitation.
White House and Capitol Hill leaders near deal on small business fund
The Senate is expected to approve a deal as early as Tuesday afternoon that would pump $310 billion into the Paycheck Protection Program, a fund meant to help small businesses that ran out of money within 13 days of its launch.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told CNN Tuesday morning, “I think we will be able to pass this today.”
“There are still some more i’s to dot and t’s to cross, but we have a deal,” he added.
He appeared to declare a victory in saying that Democrats achieved their goal of adding a national testing plan as part of the package, but it’s unclear how that would pan out.
“To get the kinds of testing that is done, to get the contract tracing, to make the tests free, you need a significant federal involvement, you need a national strategy, and the President and Mnuchin and Meadows agreed to that, to their credit,” Schumer said.
The New York senator said he was on a call with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows were on a call “well past midnight” to lock down the final details, and staff worked through the night to bang these out into legislative text.
If the legislation passes the Senate Tuesday, the House is expected to consider it as early as Thursday.
Schumer said Democrats pushed for and got a $25 billion national testing plan, $125 billion walled off in PPP for underbanked communities, $75 billion for hospitals, and commitment that states and local officials can use federal money for “lost revenues,” something he said was needed by this group.
WH national security adviser defends potential immigration executive order
White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien defended President Trump’s potential immigration executive order in an appearance on Fox and Friends Tuesday morning.
O’Brien said the potential action is part of Trump’s effort to “do everything he can to put the health of the American people first during this crisis.”
“It’s one step. It’s not dissimilar to the restrictions on travel from China he implemented back on January 29th,” he said. “We think those restrictions saved thousands or tens of thousands of lives.”
“The president is not going to be guided by politics, he’s going to be guided by doing what’s best for the health of the American people,” he said, adding that it’s also meant to protect the American economy as well.
Asked if he thinks Trump regrets being so complimentary to Chinese President Xi Jinping given China’s handling of the initial coronavirus outbreak, O’Brien said Trump is “always complementary” with foreign leaders and a “real gentleman” on the phone with world leaders.
“We want to get along with China, we have a trade deal,” he said, “but China needs to behave in a fashion that makes them a responsible player in the world.”
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