President Trump is going it alone – but he’s not planning to send you another $1,200 check anytime soon.
With talks for a new coronavirus stimulus package stalled, Trump signed a package of coronavirus stimulus measures that he will seek to implement unilaterally by executive action – although some questioned the legality of it.
“This pretty much takes care of the whole situation,” Trump said before stalking out of the contentious press conference at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.
“We’re coming back very strong,” he added. “We’re doing great with the virus.”
Trump moved to extend a scaled-down emergency unemployment benefits and an eviction ban, along with relaxing rules for repaying college loans.
Trump slashed the extended federal unemployment benefit to $300 a week instead of the previous $600. He said states can provide an additional $100 weekly benefit if they decide to do so.
Trump also moved to suspend payroll taxes for those making $100,000 a year or less.
He pointedly did not propose sending a new round of $1,200 checks to all American taxpayers, perhaps the most popular coronavirus stimulus measure.
Before actually signing the measures, Trump went into a rambling campaign-style speech against Democratic rival Joe Biden and his allies.
Trump slammed Democrats for proposing billions in aid to hard-pressed states and cities along with what he derided as a wish list of liberal spending.
“They want to bailout states that has been very badly managed for years if not decades,” Trump said. “It has nothing to do with the China virus at all.”
He also railed against the Democratic proposals to give billions in aid to states to hold elections during the COVID-19 crisis when millions of more voters want to vote by mail.
“They want to steal the election,” Trump said. “That’s all this is about.”
Trump signed the measures after summoning reporters to a to his New Jersey golf resort, where he is spending the weekend. The room was packed with members of Trump’s club, and supporters cheered the president and jeered at reporters.
Trump had already spoken about taking executive action to implement or extend some stimulus provisions after talks with Congress hit a dead end Friday.
On the emergency unemployment benefits, the payment was set at $600 a week before it expired last weekend after Congress failed to reach a deal to extend it.
Extending the ban on evictions has wide support among Democrats, although they also want emergency cash assistance to renters.
On the other hand, the moratorium on payroll tax collection is unpopular. Republicans and Democratic lawmakers alike dislike the proposal because it economists say it will have little immediate boost on the troubled economy, and has a very high price tag.
There is significant dispute about the legality of any unilateral presidential action enacting new spending like the unemployment benefit since the Constitution grants the power of the purse to Congress, not the president.
Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor, believes courts will rule Trump has no right to use supposedly unspent money from other programs to extend the slimmed-down unemployment benefit.
“Our Constitution doesn’t authorize the president to act as king whenever Congress doesn’t legislate,” said Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), a former Republican and harsh conservative critic of Trump.
Trump is acting to signal he has lost patience with the stalled talks with Democratic leaders in Congress for a giant new stimulus package.
He claimed he is acting to shuffle unspent cash from the previous $1 trillion so-called CARES Act.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y), gave a thumbs-down to the quick fix, saying the executive orders provide “little real help to families.”
“We’re disappointed that instead of putting in the work to solve Americans’ problems, the President instead chose to stay on his luxury golf course to announce unworkable, weak and narrow policy announcements to slash the unemployment benefits that millions desperately need and endanger seniors’ Social Security and Medicare,” the pair said in a statement.
“Democrats repeat our call to Republicans to return to the table, meet us halfway and work together to deliver immediate relief to the American people. Lives are being lost, and time is of the essence,” they added.
Democrats passed a sprawling $3 trillion plan months ago. After sitting on their hands for several weeks, Republicans and the White House eventually hammered out a much smaller $1 trillion package.
Talks for a compromise have made little progress.
Trump needs a potent spending plan to boost his chances of reelection. But GOP lawmakers are adamantly opposed to what they see as another Democratic budget-busting splurge.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) believe Trump needs a deal more than they do, giving them confidence the mercurial president will cave as he has done in past budget disputes.