Trump prepares to sign four executive orders on coronavirus relief after negotiations stall in Congress
President Donald Trump is preparing to suspend payroll taxes and extend expired unemployment benefits after negotiations with Congress on a new coronavirus rescue package fail.
The White House indicated that Trump was expected to pass four executive orders on Saturday, as Washington’s stalemate had forced him to act as the pandemic undermined the country’s economy and the November election approached.
The president is now in the process of signing the orders at a press conference at his country club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Trump had threatened to bypass elected lawmakers during a Friday night briefing, saying, “ If Democrats continue to hold this critical relief hostage, I will act under my authority as president to give Americans the help they need. ”
Perhaps most crucially, he intended to extend expired unemployment benefits, but it was not clear whether the aid would stay at $ 600 a week or where the money would come from.
He also planned to defer payroll taxes until the end of the year, defer student loan payments and enforce a deportation freeze.
President Donald Trump prepares to suspend payroll taxes and extend expired unemployment benefits after negotiations with Congress over new coronavirus rescue package fail
Until now, Trump has largely remained on the sidelines during his administration’s negotiations with congressional leaders.
The talks, which have been cut short in recent days, were led at his side by Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
Democrats had said they would lower their spending requirements from $ 3.4 trillion to $ 2 trillion, but said the White House should increase their bid. Republicans have proposed a $ 1 trillion plan.
White House aides have seen talks cut off with concern, worried that not closing a deal could further hurt an economic recovery that is already showing signs of slowing down.
Friday’s jobs report, although it exceeded expectations, was smaller than the past two months, in part because a resurgence of the virus has prompted states to reverse their reopenings.
The president’s team believes that the economy must stabilize and show signs of growth in order to be eligible for re-election.
Assistants hoped to frame the expected signing of executive orders as a sign that Trump was taking action at a time of crisis.
But it would also reinforce the view that the president, who took office and declared himself a deal maker, was unable to steer the process towards an agreement.
Also, expected orders would be smaller than congressional law.
“This isn’t a perfect answer – we’ll be the first to say that,” Meadows said Friday after talks broke down.
“But it’s all we can do and all the president can do within the confines of his executive branch, and we’re going to encourage him to do it.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (left) and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows (right) walk to speak to reporters after meeting on Friday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Chuck Schumer as they continue to negotiate a coronavirus deal
Trump did not specify how the payroll tax deferral would work, and it was unclear whether he had the authority to take such action without Congressional approval.
The move would not support unemployed workers, who do not pay the tax when unemployed, and would face bipartisan opposition in Congress.
The cut, a long wish of Trump, would affect payroll taxes intended to cover Medicare and Social Security benefits and take up 7 percent of an employee’s income. Employers also pay 7.65 percent of their wage costs in the funds.
Both the House and Senate have left Washington, with members sent home on instruction ready to return for a vote on an agreement.
With no deal in sight, their absence created the possibility of a prolonged stalemate that extends well into August and even September.
Often times, a standoff in Washington has little effect on the public, but not this time.
It would mean more hardship for millions of people who lose improved unemployment benefits and further damage to an economy ravaged by the still raging coronavirus.
Friday’s negotiations at the Capitol led to just “a disappointing meeting,” said Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer of New York.
He said the White House had turned down an offer from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D – California) to curb Democratic demands by about $ 1 trillion.
Schumer urged the White House to “ negotiate with Democrats and meet us in the middle. Don’t say it’s your way or not. ‘
That Capitol Hill session followed a pugnacious rally on Thursday night that for the first time raised real doubt about the ability of the Trump administration and the Democrats to come together on a fifth COVID-19 response bill.
Pelosi stated that the talks were nearly dead until Meadows and Mnuchin gave ground.
The failure of the negotiations is particularly troubling to schools, who are counting on billions of dollars from Washington to help with the cost of reopening.
But other priorities are also languishing, including a new round of $ 1,200 direct payments to most people, a cash injection for the struggling postal service, and money to help states hold elections in November.
Mnuchin said renewal from a $ 600-a-week unemployment pandemic and huge demands from Democrats for aid to state and local governments are the main areas they are stuck in.
Democrats have offered to significantly reduce her demand for state and local governments by nearly $ 1 trillion, but some of the cost savings proposed by Pelosi would increase mainly because she would shorten the time frame for benefits such as food stamps.
Pelosi and Schumer continue to push for a massive aid package to address an increase in cases and deaths, double unemployment and the threat of poverty for millions of new unemployed.
Senate Republicans have split, with about half the rank of majority leader Mitch McConnell being against another bailout bill.
Four previous responses to the coronavirus totaling nearly $ 3 trillion have won bipartisan approval despite intense bickering, but conservatives have shied away from the prospect of a new Pelosi-brokered deal with a whopping deficit-funded cost.
McConnell has kept his distance from negotiations while coordinating with Mnuchin and Meadows.