(UnitedVoice.com) – Last Friday, August 7, Democrats and Republicans walked away from negotiations about how to give Americans some financial relief due to COVID-19. With pen hand, President Donald Trump signed four executive orders taking relief matters into his own hands. In a game of cat and mouse, Democrats on Sunday, August 9, attacked the president for taking actions to help Americans while they refused to compromise on a solution.
Since June, House Democrats have signaled their refusal to negotiate in good faith when they passed a $3.4 trillion HEROES Act relief bill. They knew it had no chance of passing in the Republican-led Senate. Not willing to wait any longer for Democrats to offer a reasonable compromise to passing a law, President Trump acted on his own on Saturday to provide relief to the economy.
What’s in the Executive Orders?
The four executive orders include a modified unemployment benefit, suspension of payroll taxes, temporary assistance for rental evictions and foreclosures, and assistance with student loan payments. In each of the cases, the president has limited authority to act without legislation from Congress.
Unemployment Benefit Extension
Last week, the $600 per week additional federal unemployment benefit expired. As hundreds of thousands of new unemployment claims were filed in recent weeks, the pressure is mounting to do something to help those who lost jobs at no fault of their own. This was one of the major sticking points in the negotiations.
Many Republicans complained for months that the $600 per week additional benefit allowed people to make more money on unemployment than they were while working. In some cases, small businesses said they were having a hard time competing with the benefit, and people weren’t coming back to work. Democrats furiously denied that assertion. Republicans wanted to give a $200 per week additional benefit, but Democrats refused to negotiate on the matter.
Trump’s solution in the executive order was to meet in the middle at $400 per week. It will be paid from the Disaster Relief Fund and will be available until December 6 or when the fund balance drops to $25 billion. The executive order requires the states to pay 25% of the $400 per week benefit. Some states like New York are already balking, saying they don’t have the funds.
Payroll Tax Suspension
The second executive order is a suspension of the payroll tax from September 1 through December 31. Trump advocated for it in the CARES Act but was denied by Democrats. The 6.2% payroll tax would be deferred on wages for those making less than $100,000 per year. It’s important to note that the order does not forgive the suspension and that taxes must still be paid in 2021. The only way around it is for Congress to pass legislation that forgives the tax suspension.
Temporary Assistance Rental Evictions and Home Foreclosures
The order does not reauthorize the eviction moratorium passed by Congress in the CARES Act that expired at the end of July. However, what the order does do is direct the departments of Treasury and Housing and Urban Development to potentially offer landlords forbearances on their monthly mortgage payments if tenants can’t pay rent. It also directs agencies to review any and all authorities and resources the government may have to prevent evictions and foreclosures.
Student Loan Repayments
The final executive order extends the payment moratorium and zero-interest provisions in the CARES Act that expires on September 31 until the pandemic is declared over. There are questions if the president can legally do it, but it’s not likely to face legal challenges.
Pelosi and Schumer Want a Deal
Trump is counting on the optics that Democrats are playing politics instead of helping Americans. It appears to be working. On Monday morning, the president tweeted:
So now Schumer and Pelosi want to meet to make a deal. Amazing how it all works, isn’t it. Where have they been for the last 4 weeks when they were “hardliners”, and only wanted BAILOUT MONEY for Democrat run states and cities that are failing badly? They know my phone number!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 10, 2020
On Sunday, Pelosi retorted that the president was undermining Social Security and Medicare. Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) blamed White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows for lack of a deal on Monday morning.
It seems the order got around them, and the only alternative they have is to politically demagogue Trump, do nothing, or continue negotiating a deal. Regardless, Trump has the upper hand — again.
By Don Purdum, Freelance Contributor
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