President Trump signs limited executive orders related to unemployment relief


President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing with reporters in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, in Washington.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Trump signed several executive orders pertaining to unemployment relief on Saturday, including extending enhanced unemployment relief benefits, but at $400 a week instead of $600. It’s unclear if the has the constitutional authority implement the extended unemployment or a payroll tax cut, which he also announced. 

Mr. Trump signed the orders the day after promising to take executive action because of another failed week of negotiations on Capitol Hill to reach an agreement on a coronavirus relief bill. 

“I’m taking executive action. We’ve had it,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump announced an executive order providing a payroll tax holiday to Americans receiving less than $100,000 per year, and said he would make permanent cuts to the payroll tax if he is reelected. Although Mr. Trump has repeatedly pressed for Congress to pass a payroll tax cuts, many Republicans in the Senate have expressed opposition to the idea, due to concerns about the potential impact on the Social Security trust fund. Mr. Trump claimed, incorrectly, that “everybody” in Congress wanted the payroll tax cut.

The president signed another executive order providing protection against evictions, as well as one pertaining to student loan payment deferments.

He also announced an order extending added federal unemployment benefits at $400 per week, with states covering 25% of the cost. Congressional Democrats had not budged on their insistence for a long-term extension of enhanced unemployment benefits of $600 per week to unemployed Americans that expired at the end of July.

It’s unclear how the president might be able to do those things unilaterally. The president acknowledged that governors would have to agree to provide 25% of the additional $400 per week.

“If they don’t, they don’t. It’s up to them,” Mr. Trump said about governors. He also argued that it would not be too difficult for unemployed Americans to adjust to receiving less money from their unemployment benefits.

“This is not a hardship,” Mr. Trump said. “This is the money they need. This is the money they want. This gives them an incentive to go back to work.”

He also expressed doubt that the orders could be challenged in court, and said that he believed Americans would receive the promised relief quickly.

“I think this is going to go very rapidly through the courts,” Mr. Trump said.

The president slammed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for not coming to an agreement with White House officials. Although he said “hopefully we can do something with them on a later date,” he repeatedly criticized Democrats and their $3.4 trillion proposal. He claimed that Democrats were trying to “steal the election” by including election assistance provisions in their bill. Democrats argue that it is necessary to shore up state election systems in the middle of a pandemic, when it is expected that many voters will opt to cast their ballots by mail.

Pelosi said Friday that she had proposed a compromise on coronavirus relief legislation to White House officials, offering to cut the bill by $1 trillion if Republicans added $1 trillion to their version, but said this offer had been rejected. White House officials had hoped to reach a deal on a smaller bill that included funding for schools, the paycheck protection program and unemployment benefits, but Democrats argued that Republicans did not understand the gravity of the situation.

The president called Pelosi “crazy” and referred to the Senate minority leader as “Crying Chuck Schumer.”

Kathryn Watson contributed to this report.

First published on August 8, 2020 / 11:08 AM

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Grace Segers


Grace Segers is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.

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