Trump tees up executive orders on economy but won’t sign yet
President Trump said Friday that he is prepared to act unilaterally to reinstate expanded unemployment benefits and suspend the payroll tax due to the coronavirus, but signaled he wouldn’t do so immediately.
Trump told reporters that his administration is working “in good faith” to reach an agreement on the next stimulus package with Democratic leaders, before lambasting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) for seeking funding for states and cities that he said have been mismanaged by Democratic politicians.
“If Democrats continue to hold this critical relief hostage, I will act under my authority as president to get Americans the relief they need,” Trump said during a hastily scheduled news conference at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., on Friday evening.
Trump said he is prepared to take four actions without Congress: defer the payroll tax until the end of the year; enhance unemployment benefits until the end of the year; defer student loan payments and forgive interest indefinitely; and reinstate a federal moratorium on evictions.
Asked for a timeline, Trump said he could act as soon as the end of the week. The president also insisted he has the legal authority to take the actions unilaterally, despite doubts about his ability to do so. Trump also acknowledged that the moves were likely to invite legal challenges.
“You always get sued,” Trump said. “We’ll probably get sued.”
Trump declined to say where he would get the funding for the enhanced unemployment benefits, but insisted his administration had it secured. Officials have indicated the funding could come from money already allocated by Congress in an earlier relief package that has not been used yet.
Trump also would not specify the level of payment for the boosted unemployment benefits, which were set at $600 per week as part of the relief package passed in March. The benefits officially expired one week ago, leaving millions of Americans who have lost their jobs during the pandemic without the extra assistance.
The president’s remarks came after an eleventh meeting between Trump administration negotiators and Democratic leaders ended without a deal, despite officials expressing hope they would come to an agreement by Friday.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters Friday afternoon that they would recommend Trump move forward with executive actions as soon as this weekend. The White House has been mulling unilateral action since Monday in the absence of a deal.
The White House and Democrats remain far apart on a number of critical issues, such as assistance for state and local governments. Democrats have pushed for ample support for cash-strapped state governments to prevent layoffs and cutbacks to public services.
Pelosi and Schumer said Friday that they offered to reduce their $3.4 trillion proposal by $1 trillion as a compromise but that the White House rebuffed their request. Mnuchin and Meadows have offered to make a short-term, smaller deal on the areas that they have found common ground, but Democrats have insisted on the need for a fulsome bill.
Meanwhile, millions of Americans remain unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced business closures and prompted massive jobs losses. The Labor Department released statistics earlier Friday showing that the U.S. economy gained 1.8 million jobs during the month of July and the unemployment rate dropped 10.2 percent.
The figures exceeded expectations, but pointed to a slowdown in the economic recovery, which economists say could be further threatened by a failure of the federal government to enact a new stimulus package.