White House officials, Democrats spar over legality, substance of executive orders

Top Democratic lawmakers on Sunday hit White House officials over both the legality and the effectiveness of the executive orders signed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal prosecutor speaks out, says Barr 'has brought shame' on Justice Dept. Former Pence aide: White House staffers discussed Trump refusing to leave office Progressive group buys domain name of Trump's No. 1 Supreme Court pick MORE over the weekend, while White House officials said the measures would help Americans affected by the coronavirus pandemic and hold up in court.

Both sides made their case on the Sunday morning political shows a day after Trump signed the four coronavirus relief orders before a crowd at his club in Bedminster, N.J. That came after negotiations between Democratic leaders in Congress and White House officials reached an impasse.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocratic senator to party: 'A little message discipline wouldn't kill us' Overnight Health Care: New wave of COVID-19 cases builds in US | Florida to lift all coronavirus restrictions on restaurants, bars | Trump stirs questions with 0 drug coupon plan Overnight Defense: Appeals court revives House lawsuit against military funding for border wall | Dems push for limits on transferring military gear to police | Lawmakers ask for IG probe into Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds MORE (D-Calif.) called the actions — which include an extension of unemployment benefits at a reduced rate, an eviction moratorium, a student loan repayment freeze and a suspension of the payroll tax — “illusions.”

“What the president does doesn’t even accomplish anything he sets out to do in the categories he did, but we said to [Republicans], we’ll come down a trillion [dollars], you come up a trillion [dollars] and we’ll be able to have an agreement that meets the needs of the American people,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Characterizing the actions “as even accomplishing what they set out to do, something that would take the place of an agreement, is just not so,” she added.

Democrats in particular hit the executive order on unemployment insurance for lowering Americans' benefits at a time of still-high unemployment and for putting responsibility for 25 percent of the enhanced benefit on states that are dealing with depleted revenues and antiquated systems.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerPelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' 3 reasons why Biden is misreading the politics of court packing Cruz blocks amended resolution honoring Ginsburg over language about her dying wish MORE (D-N.Y.), who along with Pelosi had been attempting to negotiate a deal on legislation, called it an "an unworkable plan."

"It doesn't do the job," he said on ABC’s "This Week" on Sunday of all four orders. "It's not going to go into effect in most places for weeks or months because it's so put together in a crazy way."

"If he just would have renewed the $600 as we do in the HEROES bill through January, things would flow smoothly," he added, referencing the package passed by the House earlier this year.

Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump previews SCOTUS nominee as 'totally brilliant' Feinstein 'surprised and taken aback' by suggestion she's not up for Supreme Court fight Grand jury charges no officers in Breonna Taylor death MORE (D-Ill.) similarly blasted the unemployment action as a “country club fix.”

“This country club fix suggested by the president is going to be a cut in the unemployment benefits for 30 million Americans,” Durbin said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The action reduces the federal enhancement from $600 to $400, with state governments responsible for 25 percent.

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Republicans lawmakers rebuke Trump on election On The Money: Anxious Democrats push for vote on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi, Mnuchin ready to restart talks | Weekly jobless claims increase | Senate treads close to shutdown deadline Vulnerable Democrats tell Pelosi COVID-19 compromise 'essential' MORE defended the reduced amount, noting that the White House had offered to continue the $600 payments for a week while negotiations continued.

“We thought $400 was a fair compromise. We offered to continue to pay $600 while we negotiate, and the Democrats turned that down,” he said.

Meanwhile, on CNN’s “State of the Union,” White House economic adviser Larry KudlowLarry KudlowMORE sparred with CNN’s Dana Bash over both the capacity of states to cover the $100 and how much unemployed people would receive, with Kudlow touting a total of $800.

“But the executive action says 400 dollars, and the state would pay 25 percent of this,” Bash replied. “You’re talking about some other money that I don’t know about.”

When Kudlow claimed that “we will stand ready to repurpose if states put in a little bit more,” Bash said, “We need a bit of a reality check here. You do agree that the only way any of this could possibly happen is if the states actually ask for it and create a whole new system?”

Trump administration officials also defended the legality of the orders, which both Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseWhy a backdoor to encrypted data is detrimental to cybersecurity and data integrity McEnany says Trump will accept result of 'free and fair election' McConnell pushes back on Trump: 'There will be an orderly transition' MORE (R-Neb.) and Pelosi called “unconstitutional slop.”

"Our counsel's office, the Treasury Department believes it has the authority to temporarily suspend tax collections. So we're banking on that," Kudlow said on ABC’s "This Week," noting they would likely end up in court but adding that the White House is "going to go ahead with our actions anyway."

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on NBC's "Meet the Press" he was "confident" the orders would stand up in court.

Mnuchin, meanwhile, suggested Democrats would face a losing PR battle if they took the administration to court over the orders.

“We’ve cleared with the Office of Legal Counsel all these actions,” Mnuchin said on “Fox News Sunday.” “If the Democrats want to challenge us in court and hold up unemployment benefits to those hardworking Americans that are out of a job because of COVID, they’re going to have a lot of explaining to do.”

Schumer, meanwhile, declined to comment on the legality or constitutionality of the orders, while Durbin said going to court over them was a “moral dilemma.”

“This is a moral dilemma. We want unemployed people to receive benefits. We never wanted them cut off at all. I’m not going to suggest we run out to court at this point,” Durbin said on “Meet the Press.”