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Trump Bypasses Congress and Signs Executive Orders to Handle Stimulus His Way

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Trump Bypasses Congress and Signs Executive Orders to Handle Stimulus His Way

2020-08-10 11:15:21

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Donald Trump (Image source: Screenshot)

After a summer of approaching a deadline for when extra unemployment benefits would run out for the excessive amount of jobless people, Donald Trump took the power away from Congress on Saturday and handled it his way by signing four executive orders. But there are questions of whether these policies are effective and whether they will hold up in court.

There has been an extra $600 a week for the unemployed since multiple coronavirus shutdowns led to a massive increase in people filing for benefits.  However, it expired at the end of July. The GOP wanted to grant the jobless an extra $200 a week while the Democrats wanted to extend the $600 benefit.

Trump said his executive orders, that he mistakenly called "bills," will "take care of pretty much this entire situation." One of his executive orders split the difference in the disagreement over weekly benefits, granting $400. However, it's not that easy.

Trump's orders require 25 percent of this unemployment benefit to be paid by states, but many of them are already dealing with budget difficulties. The other 75 percent will be funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. There is only enough money, however, to cover five weeks. Nothing was mentioned about what will happen when the FEMA money runs out.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) was asked on CNN if his state would be able to afford the 25 percent cut of the unemployment benefit. "The answer is, I don't know yet," he replied.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said, "Executive orders can't replace legislative actions. States can't pay 25 percent of unemployment costs. It's simply impossible."

Another order Trump signed is a payroll tax deferment from September through December for people earning less than $100,000. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans wanted to grant him the payroll tax cut he'd been asking for.

Employers may decide not to comply, however, as they could have to withdraw a large amount of money from paychecks when taxes are due. The further difficulty with this is that the payroll tax funds Social Security and Medicare. Trump said if he is reelected, he will try to make the deferred payments permanent.

But the question remains of what will happen to Social Security and Medicare. Additionally, Pete Isberg, the vice president of government affairs for ADP, said it could take months for businesses to implement a system to defer the taxes. So this is not something that will help immediately.

The AARP criticized Trump's order and said it "exacerbates people's already-heightened fears and concerns" regarding their future.

The other executive actions concern protections for eviction and student loan relief. The eviction protection, however, is only a suggestion and not an order. The student loan order extends through the end of the year the relief already granted by Congress in March.

There are concerns these executive orders could lead to a legal fight as well. They wouldn't be the first Trump executive orders to do so. And if the orders do end up in court, it's simply not going to provide relief for a very long time.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow conceded on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that the executive orders may end up in court but that the administration is "going to go ahead with our actions anyway."

"Our counsel's office, the Treasury Department, believes it has the authority to temporarily suspend tax collections. So we're banking on that. We've had also a repurposing of funds. ... That was decided in our favor in the Supreme Court case regarding the Mexican wall a while back. So we think we can do it," he said.

"These policy announcements provide little real help to families," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in a statement. "Instead of passing a bill, now President Trump's cutting families' unemployment benefits and pushing states further into budget crises, forcing them to make devastating cuts to life-or-death services." Additionally, the eviction order "provided no assistance to help pay the rent."

Schumer added on ABC News on Sunday, "Unfortunately, the president's executive orders, described in one word, could be paltry, in three words, unworkable, weak, and far too narrow."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), however, said, "Struggling Americans need action now." He added, "Since Democrats have sabotaged backroom talks with absurd demands that would not help working people, I support President Trump exploring his options to get unemployed benefits and other relief to the people who need them the most."

Other Democrats agreed with Schumer and Pelosi. "This scheme is a classic Trump con: play-acting at leadership while robbing families of the support they need," complained Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) in a tweet. "This 'plan' fails to reinstate supercharged unemployment and would throw already overburdened state programs into chaos, making it harder to get benefits out the door."

Pelosi complained on Fox News on Sunday that she and Schumer made significant concessions to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to get a deal over the past couple of weeks.

"We have to reach an agreement," she said. "Children are food-insecure, families are at risk of being evicted, the virus is moving like a freight train."

Mnuchin, though, maintained that Democrats refused to lower the amount they were asking for to aid cities and states. He insisted all other matters were resolved.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) refused to take a side. Then again, he's up for reelection, so maybe he's being more mindful of November rather than what he feels is right. 

"I appreciate the president taking this decisive action but would much prefer a congressional agreement," tweeted the senator. "I believe President Trump would prefer the same."

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