President Donald Trump announced a series of executive actions on Saturday to provide expanded unemployment benefits, a temporary payroll tax deferral, eviction protection and student-loan relief, as the pandemic continues to thwart an economic recovery.
Trump’s move signals a possible collapse in negotiations with congressional Democrats over an additional coronavirus relief package, with the two sides trillions of dollars apart on key issues, including aid to state governments and the amount of supplementary unemployment benefits.
“What Democrats primarily want is bailout money — has nothing to do with the China virus,” Trump said during a news conference at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. “We’re not willing to do that.”
Trump said his action authorizes Treasury to allow companies to defer payroll taxes for Americans making less than $100,000 a year. He said if he is re-elected in November, he may extend the deferral and terminate the tax.
The president said another order would provide $400 a week in jobless benefits — down from $600 weekly that had been provided through last week — and states would be responsible for covering 25% of the cost.
To act on his own, the president is relying on an expansive and controversial reading of executive power that likely will face legal challenges.
Trump’s advisers say executive action could pressure Democrats to reduce their demands and allow him to argue to voters that he’s looking out for their well-being amid congressional inaction.
But the gambit risks alienating Democratic lawmakers and decreasing the odds for a deal that both sides say is necessary to help the economy recover from a pandemic that’s decimated industries and left nearly 160,000 Americans dead so far.
Democrats criticized the president when he threatened the move during negotiations, saying the administration would be better off returning to the bargaining table.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had been meeting throughout the week with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to try to craft a deal.