Under pressure, Trump administration weighs extending National Guard deployments

On Tuesday, POLITICO first reported on a recording of Trump administration officials discussing the June 24 cutoff, its implications for Guard members’ benefits and the hardship it would cause states grappling with the pandemic, particularly as they attempt to prevent new outbreaks by identifying and isolating people who’ve been exposed to possible infection.

After the report, multiple lawmakers wrote to Trump Wednesday warning that the pending June cutoff would endanger Americans who are currently relying on Guard members to deliver food to patients, run coronavirus testing sites, decontaminate infected nursing homes and perform other services that understaffed state health departments have been hard-pressed to do on their own.

In a letter first shared with POLITICO, Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) told Trump that the Guard should not be “pulled from the front lines when their contributions are still urgently needed,” noting that his and other states would struggle to afford to keep them on without federal funding.

Another letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper from 78 House members led by Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and first shared with POLITICO, demands an explanation for the June 24 cutoff, given that it would limit the Guards’ benefits.

“While we hope this is a coincidence, not policy, we request an explanation of the choice of expiration date,” wrote the lawmakers, including one Republican, Pennsylvania’s Brian Fitzpatrick. “To battle this unprecedented crisis, we asked our neighbors in uniform to serve our nation in its time of need, and we hope the Department has not—and will not—nickel-and-dime its Soldiers and Airmen.”