President Trump signed four executive actions Saturday aimed at delivering relief to Americans struggling with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic while accusing Democrats of stonewalling greater aid efforts.
Trump announced a $400-per-week supplemental unemployment payment to out-of-work Americans — short of the $600 weekly benefit that expired at the end of July. He unveiled an extension of student loan relief and protections from evictions for renters and homeowners.
Trump also issued a payroll tax holiday through the end of the year for Americans earning less than $100,000, while promising more relief if he wins a second term.
WHAT’S IN PRESIDENT TRUMP’S FOUR CORONAVIRUS RELIEF EXECUTIVE ORDERS?
The president signed the executive actions from his Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., as club members cheered him on. He blamed Democrats for the coronavirus stalemate in Congress and said he’d take matters into his own hands.
“Democrats are obstructing all of it,” Trump said. “Therefore, I’m taking executive action … and we’re going to save American jobs and provide relief to the American workers.”
For the new $400-per-week benefit, states would be on the hook for funding 25 percent for the millions of jobless Americans, while the federal government would pick up 75 percent of the benefit, Trump said. Asked when the jobless would see the money, Trump said it would be “rapidly distributed.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., dismissed Trump’s “meager” actions and slammed the president for signing them from his Bedminster club.
“Today’s meager announcements by the president show President Trump still does not comprehend the seriousness or the urgency of the health and economic crises facing working families,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement Saturday. “We’re disappointed that instead of putting in the work to solve Americans’ problems, the President instead chose to stay on his luxury golf course to announce unworkable, weak and narrow policy announcements to slash the unemployment benefits that millions desperately need and endanger seniors’ Social Security and Medicare.”
Trump has long wanted a holiday on payroll taxes, which help fund Social Security and Medicare. But congressional Republicans have not fought for the provision because of how much the suspension on tax collection could drive up an already staggering debt.
Acting unilaterally could prompt legal challenges. Since Congress controls new federal spending, Trump already predicted sidestepping lawmakers could have lawsuit consequences. But he dared opponents to deprive Americans of relief.
“If we get sued, it’s [from] somebody that doesn’t want people to get money,” Trump said. “And that’s not going to be a very popular thing.”
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said Trump’s payroll tax holiday could drain the Social Security trust fund and said some states cannot afford the 25 percent unemployment match, especially since the GOP has opposed additional money to state and local governments.
“Donald Trump is trying to distract from his failure to extend the $600 federal boost for 30 million unemployed workers by issuing illegal executive orders,” Wyden said. “This scheme is a classic Donald Trump con: play-acting at leadership while robbing people of the support they desperately need.”
But Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said he supports Trump’s unilateral actions.
“I applaud @realDonaldTrump executive actions to help the American [people],” Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, tweeted. “Democrats all or nothing strategy jeopardizes the certainty Americans need to pay their bills. [President] Trump puts the American [people] first, compared to nonstop political games by Democrats.”
House Democrats already passed their $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill in May. The Senate GOP last month proposed a $1 trillion plan, though didn’t bring the measure to a vote as Republicans were divided on whether more aid is even needed.
DESPITE POLLS AND PANDEMIC, TRUMP CAMPAIGN ARGUES CANDIDATE BETTER POSITIONED THAN IN 2016
Pelosi and Schumer have been in talks all week with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, but the two sides couldn’t strike a deal.
Democrats blamed the GOP for failing to understand the gravity of the crisis and for trying to “nickel and dime” struggling Americans, while the White House accused Democrats of not being willing to compromise.
Trump blasted the Democrats’ $3 trillion HEROES Act as a “radical left policy” that includes bailouts to states, sending stimulus help to undocumented immigrants, and funding for mail-in voting and other election provisions.
“They want to steal the election,” Trump said of Democrats.
Trump’s orders are narrower in scope than the trillions Congress is mulling for a massive stimulus to the virus-damaged economy.
The president didn’t address some of the big issues that congressional proposals sought to tackle, including another round of $1,200 stimulus checks, aid to schools to reopen safely, an infusion of cash to revenue-strapped state and local governments, food assistance, new lawsuit protections for businesses and money for mail-in voting for the 2020 elections.
Because of provisions in the Constitution that grant the legislative branch spending power, the White House can’t just pull hundreds of billions out of the ether without Congressional approval.