After Reaching Impasse With Democrats, Trump Signs Executive Orders For COVID-19 Relief Despite Questionable Legality
President Donald Trump signed a series of coronavirus relief executive orders on Saturday. The executive actions are aiming to provide relief on unemployment checks, evictions, taxes and further postpone payments on student loans. But the orders ended up creating confusion as they came without the constitutionally required congressional approval.
Trump said on Saturday the stimulus package would provide Americans who lost their jobs in the midst of the pandemic $300 a week, with the possibility of states increasing the payment to $100 a week if they have enough funds. Unemployed Americans got $600 a week under the CARES Act, that expired in July.
“It will depend on the state,” Trump said. “They’ll make an application. We’ll look at it and make a decision. It may be they’ll pay nothing in some instances.”
New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) reacted to the announcement on Twitter: “Executive Orders can’t replace legislative actions. States can’t pay 25% of unemployment costs. It’s simply impossible.”
Trump’s order also waives payroll tax that funds Social Security and Medicaid for employees making less than $104,000 until January – the action that raises concern that Medicaid and Social Security’s trust funds will be affected. Trump said he would permanently forgive postponed payroll taxes – but only if he is reelected.
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said the action may affect Social Security and Medicaid.
“Unable to deliver for the American people in a time of crisis, Donald Trump offered a series of half-baked measures today,” Biden said in a statement on Saturday. “He is putting Social Security at grave risk at a time when seniors are suffering the overwhelming impact of a pandemic he has failed to get under control. And make no mistake: Donald Trump said today that if he is re-elected, he will defund Social Security.”
The president does not have constitutional power over taxes and federal money. Suspension of student loans payments until the end of the year is the only executive action that does not need congressional approval.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–California) criticized Trump’s actions, saying he did not seek approval from Congress and that the relief was not enough for many families.
“The president’s meager, weak and unconstitutional actions further demand that we have an agreement,” Pelosi said on Fox News Sunday.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-New York) agreed with Pelosi in his ABC News interview on Sunday.
“Unfortunately, the president’s executive orders, described in one word, could be paltry, in three words, unworkable, weak and far too narrow,” he said.
In response, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin defended Trump’s plan and said White House lawyers ensured the action was legal.
“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,” Mnuchin said.
Business owners raise concerns that they may not work for them. Since taxes are subtracted from employees’ salaries, businesses would be unlikely to alter worker paychecks without the guarantee the plan would be set into action. Some small businesses were not addressed in the order.
“The downside of executive orders is you can’t address some of the small business incidents that are there,” Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, said in a pretaped interview with Gray Television. “You can’t necessarily get direct payments, because it has to do with appropriations. That’s something that the president doesn’t have the ability to do.”