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White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefs Public As Political Wars Simmer

President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Tuesday, April 21, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) (Alex Brandon/)
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By Philip Ewing | NPR

The White House's coronavirus task force convened its daily news conference on Tuesday as political wars continue over how the U.S. will try to move into reconstruction after the disaster.

Elsewhere in Washington, members of Congress reached an agreement on about $484 billion more in relief funding to help small businesses and others hurt by the mitigation measures aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.

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The Senate passed the measure on Tuesday and the House could vote as soon as Wednesday. President Trump is expected to sign it into law.

Trump also said he'd agreed with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo that the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort -- which had deployed to New York City to provide surge treatment capacity for the pandemic -- could return to its berth in Norfolk, Virginia at the earliest opportunity.


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Cuomo and Trump also said they've established New York has enough ventilators to meet its needs and some of them can be sent to Massachusetts or elsewhere as needed, Trump said.

Trump and his top lieutenants, meanwhile, are still fighting a number of skirmishes over federalism and the dividing line between the power of the president and the powers of the states.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo gives a press briefing about the coronavirus crisis on April 17, 2020 in Albany, New York. (Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images)

Trump's latest gambits and subplots include:

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A pending executive order that would "temporarily suspend" immigration into the United States for 60 days, putting a stop to the issuance of green cards. The policy will not apply to temporary workers, Trump said.

The order follows years of hard-line policy by Trump on immigration and what he calls the importance of borders.

The president said on Tuesday that his goal was to keep immigrants from becoming citizens and applying for jobs that had been vacated by Americans laid off during the pandemic.

"We must first take care of the American worker," Trump said.

It wasn't immediately clear how many newcomers might have contended for the posts from which Americans have been laid off, especially given the nudge from the government for employers not to terminate workers.

Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks as U.S. President Donald Trump looks on during the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on April 21, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Congress and the Treasury Department have tried to create incentives for employers to keep workers on payrolls with forgivable loans and other support in the trillions of dollars of relief authorized by Washington.

Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Tuesday that he estimated 30 million American jobs have been saved thanks to paycheck support, small business loan and other programs.

More outflows of cash are pending from Washington. There's the legislation passed on Tuesday by the Senate. Trump and Mnuchin said they're also looking at another round of aid that focuses on infrastructure, especially rural broadband network capacity.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan talks to reporters during a news briefing in front of the Maryland State House April 17, 2020 in Annapolis, Maryland. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

An ongoing political duel with governors over power and responsibility in the pandemic and its aftermath. Cuomo has been a leading example, although he and Trump both said separately on Tuesday their meeting was productive.

Trump's newer antagonists include Maryland's Republican governor, Larry Hogan, who ordered 500,000 coronavirus tests from South Korea after concluding there was insufficient testing capacity in the U.S. or the Free State.

Trump maintains there is ample testing capacity in the United States if governors could only activate unused resources within their own states. Several governors and members of Congress, including Hogan, call this a fantasy and have faulted Trump or taken matters into their own hands or both.

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