Trump announces executive actions after stimulus talks break down



President Donald Trump on Saturday announced he would move forward with multiple executive actions designed to provide relief to millions of financially struggling Americans after talks between his aides and Democratic leaders on a new pandemic relief package broke down this week.
Trump laid out four actions that he said would cut taxes for workers through the end of the year, extend unemployment benefits but at a reduced rate, renew a moratorium on evictions during the pandemic, and defer student loan payments and interest until the end of the year.
But Trump's moves — one executive order and three presidential memorandum to federal agencies — don't go as far as some White House officials had suggested they would in recent days. And the failure by the White House and Democratic congressional leaders fails to resolve questions over government support for schools and businesses that hope to reopen to this fall or provide immunity from lawsuits sought by Republicans on Capitol Hill.
The presidential action comes after a "last ditch" 90-minute meeting on Friday afternoon between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer led to no significant progress on a relief deal.
"We have repeatedly stated our willingness to immediately sign legislation providing extended unemployment benefits, protecting Americans from eviction and providing additional relief payments to families. Democrats have refused these offers, they want to negotiate, what they really want is bailout money for states run by Democrat governors and mayors, they've been on really bad for decades," Trump told supporters in a politically charged address at his Bedminster, N.J., resort.
The president's decision to do an end run around Congress underscores the deep tensions between Democratic leaders and the White House as the United States has failed to tame the coronavirus pandemic, leading to a surge in cases and economic devastation less than three months before Election Day.
Trump has consistently attempted to shift blame to others, while proclaiming that the United States has superior testing abilities and pressuring schools and businesses to reopen.

The collapse in the latest stimulus talks came after both sides refused to make any breakthrough compromises and as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has largely stayed on the sidelines.
White House and Democratic leaders remained trillions of dollars apart on any deal, with Democrats pushing for the $3 trillion HEROES Act and the White House aiming to stay at $1 trillion. Senate Republicans also were divided on their own opening offer, with hard-line conservatives opposing additional federal spending.
Pelosi and Schumer said Friday that they were willing to cut down their ask by $1 trillion if the White House increased their offer by $1 trillion, a move administration officials rejected.
To cover the cost of the new federal unemployment payments — which could be as high as $400-per-week if states cover a portion of the effort — Trump diverted $44 billion from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The federal government would cover 75 percent of the payment, with the states providing the remainder. It's unclear how long the federal payments would last under this Trump order or how soon they can flow to eligible recipients, but Democratic aides suggested the amount of funds available would cover two to three months.
Congress and Trump agreed to $600-per-week federal payments to unemployed workers as part the $2.2 trillion Cares Act in late March, but those payments expired on July 31. The controversy over extending the benefit was a major sticking point between the White House and Democratic congressional leaders. Pelosi and Schumer wanted to continue the payments well into 2021 at $600-per-week, while the White House offered $400-per-week for five months.
The president also called for forgoing payroll taxes on Americans earning less than $100,000 per year. Trump said during his address that he would direct the Treasury Department to allow employers to defer payments of "certain" payroll taxes starting Aug. 1 until the end of the year. Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress were opposed to a payroll tax cuts, fearing it could undermine the Social Security and Medicare trust funds.
Trump, though, also expressed a willingness to make the tax cuts, which he has frequently voiced support for during negotiations, permanent if he wins re-election in November.
"If I win, I may extend and terminate, extend it beyond the year end terminate the tax," Trump said. "So, we'll see what happens."
The president said his directive to extend a moratorium on evictions would include financial assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for struggling renters and homeowners.
"We don't want people being evicted, and the bill I'm signing will solve that problem largely, hopefully completely," Trump said.




Trump's directive on student loans would allow borrowers to defer payments and interest until the end of the year, a date Trump appeared willing to consider extending as well.
"It's not their fault the colleges have closed down and not their fault they are unable to get what they bargained for," Trump contended.
The president's politically-infused speech at his New Jersey golf club was akin to a campaign-style diatribe against his political opponents. Trump's attacks on Pelosi, Schumer and likely Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden were greeted by cheers and applause from supporters who were allowed to attend the announcement.
"Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have chosen to hold this vital assistance hostage on behalf of very extreme partisan demands and the radical left Democrats and we just can't do that," Trump said. "This is a bill supported by Biden, and Biden is totally controlled now by the Bernie Sanders left wing of the party."
Trump also railed against Democrats over their demands for a vote-by-mail provision in the now-stalled relief bill talks.
"The bill requires all states to do universal mail-in balloting, which nobody is prepared for," Trump said. "Regardless of whether or not [states] have the infrastructure, they want to steal an election."
The White House’s new executive actions will likely face legal challenges. Democrats promised last week to take Trump to court if he sidestepped Congress’ constitutional authority to spend federal funds.
When asked Saturday whether he expected Democrats to challenge the White House over the orders, the president said any lawsuit would go “very rapidly” through the legal system.

“Maybe we won't get sued. If we get sued, it’s somebody who doesn't want people to get money,” Trump said. “And that's not going to be a popular thing.”
The president has circumvented Congress’ spending power before when he declared a national emergency in February 2019 and ordered the Pentagon to transfer congressionally appropriated military funds to pay for a wall along portions of the U.S.-Mexico border. In a 5-4 ruling last month, the Supreme Court refused to lift a stay it issued last year that allows the Trump administration to spend billions in federal funds on the wall while litigation over the plan's legality is resolved.
Pelosi and Schumer released a joint statement shortly after the actions were announced, slamming Trump for refusing to negotiate with Democrats.
“Today’s meager announcements by the President show President Trump still does not comprehend the seriousness or the urgency of the health and economic crises facing working families," the top Democrats wrote.
Congressional Republicans were split on Trump's decision to take matters into his own hands.
“Struggling Americans need action now," McConnell said in a statement. "Since Democrats have sabotaged backroom talks with absurd demands that would not help working people, I support President Trump exploring his options to get unemployment benefits and other relief to the people who need them the most."
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) took to Twitter and said Trump "puts the American ppl first compared to nonstop political games by Democrats."
“I applaud @realDonaldTrump executive actions to help the American ppl," the Iowa Republican wrote. "Democrats all or nothing strategy jeopardizes the certainty Americans need to pay their bills."
But Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who chided Democrats for holding up the bill, didn't support the president circumventing Congress.
“The president is doing all he can to help workers, students and renters, but Congress is the one who should be acting," Alexander tweeted.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) also criticized "Lawmaking by Executive Order."
"The pen-and-phone theory of executive lawmaking is unconstitutional slop," Sasse said in a statement released Saturday night. "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. Under the Constitution, that power belongs to the American people acting through their members of Congress.”
John Bresnahan and Josh Gerstein contributed to this report.

Top News