Trump signs executive orders extending coronavirus relief, setting up legal battle with Democrats

President cuts back additional unemployment relief to $400 a week while announcing new actions

Chris Riotta
New York
Saturday 08 August 2020 22:38
Trump cheered by golf club guests as he says they don't have to wear masks

Donald Trump has signed multiple executive orders on Saturday for coronavirus relief, seeking to bypass Congress after negotiations stalled in Washington — setting the stage for a legal battle with Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill.

The orders would provide $400 in additional relief to unemployed Americans each week, as well as a payroll tax holiday for taxpayers who earn less than $100,000 annually, beginning in August through the end of 2020. He also promised to forgive the taxes if he wins re-election in 2020.

The second order would ensure renters and homeowners can avoid eviction throughout the pandemic. His third order would expand unemployment benefits after additional relief funds for Americans who lost work during the pandemic expired. The order would provide $400 a week in addition to state unemployment benefits.

The president claimed Democrats “have refused” to accept Republican-led stimulus packages, and that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have held the proposals “hostage” — despite Congress passing the sweeping HEROES Act in May, which provides billions in relief funds.

Mr Trump spent the beginning of his press briefing on Saturday attacking the HEROES Act and mail-in voting, claiming states like Nevada “certainly don’t have the infrastructure” for expanded absentee ballot measures.

A fourth order the president signed on Saturday would extend current policies waiving student loan payments through the end of the year, adding that student loan relief would likely be extended immediately after it expired in early 2021.

Trump has largely stayed on the sidelines during the administration’s negotiations with congressional leaders. The talks, which broke down in recent days, were led on his side by chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

The president said at his club on Friday night that “if Democrats continue to hold this critical relief hostage I will act under my authority as president to get Americans the relief they need.”

Democrats had said they would lower their spending demands from $3.4 trillion to $2 trillion but said the White House needed to increase their offer. Republicans have proposed a $1 trillion plan.

White House aides have watched the talks break down with apprehension, fearful that failure to close a deal could further damage an economic recovery already showing signs of slowing down. Friday’s jobs report, though it beat expectations, was smaller than the past two months, in part because a resurgence of the virus has led to states rolling back their reopenings.

The president’s team believes the economy needs to stabilize and show signs of growth for him to have any chance at winning reelection. Aides were hoping to frame the expected executive orders signings as a sign that Trump was taking action in a time of crisis. But it also would reinforce the view that the president, who took office declaring he was a dealmaker, was unable to steer the process to an agreement.

Also, the president's orders would be smaller in scope than congressional legislation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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