Senate

Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders

Several GOP senators voiced discomfort regarding President Trump's decision Saturday to sign four executive orders meant to address the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and bypass Congress.    

At his private club in Bedminster, N.J., on Saturday afternoon, Trump signed orders that extend unemployment benefits, suspend payroll taxes, and offer federal eviction and student loan relief. 

Some members of the president's party took issue with the move, asserting that Congress should be legislating. 

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who has spoken out against the government spending large sums of money in coronavirus legislation, offered one of the party's more cutting rebukes, calling the theory behind the move "unconstitutional slop."

"The pen-and-phone theory of executive lawmaking is unconstitutional slop," Sasse said in a statement issued by email and obtained by The Hill. "President Obama did not have the power to unilaterally rewrite immigration law with DACA, and President Trump does not have the power to unilaterally rewrite the payroll tax law."

During the Obama administration, conservatives often criticized the president's use of executive actions on issues that were stuck in Congress such as immigration reform. 

Trump's orders came after pressure on the White House and Senate GOP to strike a deal with congressional Democratic leadership mounted this week, with negotiators racing to meet a self-imposed deadline of Friday. However, they were unable to agree on a proposal as the programs established by the CARES Act in March expired.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that while he appreciated the president's orders, he "would much prefer a congressional agreement."  

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), meanwhile, blamed Democrats for failing to reach an agreement.

"The president is doing all he can to help workers, students and renters, but Congress is the one who should be acting," Alexander said in a statement. 

Rep. Justin Amash (L-Mich.), a libertarian who left the Republican Party last year, compared the president's actions to those of a "king."

"Our Constitution doesn't authorize the president to act as king whenever Congress doesn't legislate," Amash posted on Twitter.

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.  

This report was updated on Aug. 9 at 9:02 a.m.

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