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WASHINGTON – With talks with Congress in a stalemate, President Donald Trump signed a series of executive orders Saturday to provide temporary relief for Americans suffering from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking from his golf resort in Bedminster, NJ, Trump said his orders would provide an additional $ 400 a week in unemployment benefits, which is $ 200 less than the extra benefit that expired at the end of July.
Trump said he will also suspend payments on some student loans until the end of the year, protect landlords from being evicted from their homes, and instruct employers to defer certain payroll taxes until the end of the year for Americans who earn less than $ 100,000 a year.
Trump said he decided to act on his own and order the benefits after two weeks of talks with Congressional Democrats collapsed without an agreement on a new coronavirus aid package.
“We had it,” he said. “We will save American jobs and offer relief to the American worker.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. And Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., met for more than two hours Friday with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in a last-ditch effort to escape discussion and come up with a new package to help Americans who are still feeling the economic effects of the pandemic.
But the talks seemed fruitless, with both sides acknowledging they were at a standstill with no good road ahead.
Mnuchin later announced that he and Meadows would recommend that Trump move forward with executive orders, although Democrats said the president lacks the legal authority to take unilateral action on most of those items and that, in no case, he does not have enough money in the federal budget to meet its goals.
Trump had threatened for days to secure relief through an executive order if negotiations failed to produce a deal.
Before leaving for a trip to Ohio on Thursday, Trump said he had instructed his staff to work on the details of the orders.
“It is possible that we will make a deal, but it is also possible that we will not make it,” Trump told reporters.
Congressional lawmakers had interpreted Trump’s threat as a way to put pressure on negotiators to make a deal. Some Republicans also said they believed Trump was being bullied.
“I doubt he’s serious,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told reporters Thursday.
Political opponents questioned whether Trump’s orders were legal and whether they would be effective in any case.
“It’s nowhere near to solve the problem,” said Democratic strategist Eddie Vale.
Josh Schwerin of USA Action Priorities, a political action committee that supports Democratic candidates, described Trump’s actions as little more than a political ploy.
“The idea that this is Trump leading is total hogwash,” Schwerin said. “The House Democrats passed a relief bill two months ago, and Trump has chosen to force the country deeper into a recession than to take action. Trump has failed in the coronavirus, and he has failed in the economy.”
Josh Blackman, a constitutional law expert, said Trump could try to get around questions about whether he has the authority to grant a payroll tax cut and other relief through the executive order, simply by instructing that existing federal law not apply. completely.
“Instead of donating benefits, he would simply instruct the government not to collect taxes for example, or expel people to federal housing,” said Blackman, a constitutional law professor at the South Texas College of Justice in Houston.
If Trump loses the election for Democrat Joe Biden in November, it would be difficult for Biden to end those policies immediately, Blackman said. “Biden ‘s efforts to stop them will be linked to litigation, potentially for years,” he said.
Two of the items covered under Trump’s orders were part of a $ 2 trillion coronavirus recovery package that Congress approved in March but has since expired.
A An additional $ 600 a week in unemployment benefits expired at the end of July, along with a federal moratorium on evictions, putting tenants of more than 12 million rental units across the country at risk if they lose payments.
The law also suspended payments for some student loans. This provision is set to expire at the end of September.
Trump has long pushed for a payroll tax cut, but members of Congress on both sides opposed the idea.
Congress and the White House have been struggling to develop a new coronavirus package as the pandemic death toll continues to rise. More than 160,000 Americans have died from the disease caused by the virus, and nearly 5 million have been infected by the virus.
In May, the Democrat-led House passed the HEROES Act, a roughly $ 3.4 trillion bill that would provide a second round of direct payments to millions of Americans, nearly $ 1 trillion for revenue-captured states and local governments. and billions for housing and food aid.
In July, the Republican-controlled Senate introduced its counter-proposal, the SHALNDETS Act, a $ 1.1 trillion package that includes direct payments but no federal assistance for housing, food or state and local governments. He has not yet crossed the room.
Contributions: Christal Hayes, Nicholas Wu, Ledyard King
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