As Republicans in Congress have failed to pass a COVID-19 relief deal leaving tens of millions of Americans stranded as one in three renters are now expected to miss their August rent payments entirely, Donald Trump has decided that he can now do whatever he wants to through executive order and Congress and the Supreme Court be damned.
President Trump on Saturday attempted to bypass Congress and make dramatic changes to tax and spending policy, signing executive actions that challenge the boundaries of power that separate the White House and Capitol Hill.
At a news event in Bedminster, N.J., Trump said the actions would provide economic relief to millions of Americans by deferring taxes and, he said, providing temporary unemployment benefits. The measures would attempt to wrest away some of Congress’s most fundamental, constitutionally mandated powers — tax and spending policy. Trump acknowledged that some of the actions could be challenged in court but indicated he would persevere.
Trump bemoaned how Democrats had refused to accept his demands during the recent negotiations but attempted to brush it aside, saying four measures he signed Saturday “will take care of pretty much this entire situation.”
But there were instant questions about whether Trump’s actions were as ironclad as he made them out to be. A leading national expert on unemployment benefits said one of the actions would not increase federal unemployment benefits at all. Instead, the expert said it would instead create a new program that could take “months” to set up. And Trump’s directive to halt evictions primarily calls for federal agencies to “consider” if they should be stopped.
Trump also mischaracterized the legal stature of the measures, referring to them as “bills.” Congress writes and votes on bills, not the White House. The documents Trump signed on Saturday were a combination of memorandums and an executive order.
The White House and Democrats have clashed for weeks about what to do with the $600 enhanced weekly unemployment benefit that expired at the end of July.
One of the measures Trump signed on Saturday aims to provide $400 in weekly unemployment aid for millions of Americans. Trump said 25 percent of this money would be paid by states, many of which are already dealing with major budget shortfalls. The federal contribution would be redirected from disaster relief money at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Those funds are not likely to last more than two months, and Trump would not say when the benefits would kick in.
Another document signed by Trump on Saturday attempts to defer payroll tax payments from September through December for people who earn less than $100,000. The impact of this measure could depend on whether companies decide to comply, as they could be responsible for withdrawing large amounts of money from their employees’ paychecks in a few months when the taxes are due.
The president said that if he wins reelection, he would seek to extend the deferral and somehow “terminate” the taxes that are owed. He also dared presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden to try to recoup those tax dollars if elected in November. The payroll tax funds Social Security and Medicare benefits, and it’s unclear where those programs will get funding if the taxes are deferred.
Trump is now fully behind doing whatever he wants to keep Trump in power. He promised he would simply eliminate the payroll tax completely, meaning there would be no tax revenue for Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid and he's now daring Joe Biden and the Democrats to do anything about it.
Even worse, he did all this as performative nonsense at his Bedminster resort in New Jersey on a Saturday.
It's ridiculous, and we have months of this ahead, and politically Trump can actually win here because he once again refuses to play by anyone's rules but his own. There's a 99.9% chance he gets away with this and eliminates Biden's lead. Your Trump friends on Facebook will gladly tell you in a couple of weeks how he "saved" us even though it's his fault we're in this mess. He creates a disaster and then takes the credit for a minimal cleanup effort while Dems scream and point and by the time anyone pays attention, he's on to the next disaster.
The one issue here is that Trump has officially jettisoned any need for Mitch McConnell anymore. It's not Republicans running away from Trump, it's now Trump running away from McConnell. I predict this is going to blow up in his face very quickly, because if there's anything old white Republican senators will not stand for, it's being made irrelevant by the guy in the Oval Office.
Already Pelosi and Mnuchin want to restart talks. But nothing matters unless the Senate GOP plays ball.
We'll see how this goes.