Senate

Pelosi, Schumer slam Trump executive orders, call for GOP to come back to negotiating table

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) criticized President Trump's decision to issue four executive orders Saturday, bypassing Congress to address the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The lawmakers also called on their Republican colleagues to meet back at the negotiating table to pass a fifth bill in Congress. 

At his private club in Bedminster, N.J., Trump signed orders that extend unemployment benefits, suspend payroll taxes, and offer federal eviction and student loan relief after lawmakers and members of the Trump administration failed to reach an agreement on a bill this week.  

The Democratic congressional leaders issued a joint statement Saturday evening stating that Trump, "still does not comprehend the seriousness or the urgency of the health and economic crises facing working families."

One order issued Saturday directs the Treasury Department to allow employers to defer payment of employee-side Social Security payroll taxes through the end of 2020 for Americans receiving less than roughly $100,000 per year. 

"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," the lawmakers said.

Negotiators including Pelosi, Schumer, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters Friday that their last hours-long meeting at the Capitol was unproductive. Both administration officials and Democrats blamed one another, claiming that the other side was unwilling to compromise on various sticking points. 

The executive actions signed by Trump came in response to the congressional stalemate as well as to programs established by the CARES Act such as the Paycheck Protection Program, enhanced unemployment benefits and eviction moratoriums expiring this month. The expirations could leave thousands of Americans without homes or money to pay for basic living expenses. 

The lawmakers also claimed that Trump's order does "not actually extend the eviction moratorium" put in place through the CARES Act, which banned evictions in all federally subsidized housing.

The order signed by the president Saturday states that it will ban evictions and foreclosures on all federally insured single-family mortgages, a provision that had already been put in place in June by the Federal Housing Administration.

The order also says it "will take all lawful measures to prevent" residential evictions. 

"Democrats repeat our call to Republicans to return to the table, meet us halfway and work together to deliver immediate relief to the American people," Pelosi and Schumer said. "Lives are being lost, and time is of the essence."

It is still unclear if it is legal for Trump to unilaterally intervene on unemployment and other benefits, with the president intimating on Saturday in New Jersey that he does anticipate lawsuits against the orders.  

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