Trump signs coronavirus relief orders after talks with Congress break down

BEDMINSTER, NJ (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Saturday signed executive orders and provided additional financial support to Americans hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic after his negotiators failed to reach a deal with Congress.

US President Donald Trump speaks after signing executive orders for economic relief during a news conference amid the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) disease, at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, US, August 8, 2020. REUTERS / Joshua Roberts

Trump said the orders would provide an additional $ 400 a week to the tens of millions thrown out of work during a health crisis that killed more than 160,000 Americans, less than the level of $ 600 a week passed earlier in the year .

Some of the measures would likely pose legal challenges, as the U.S. Constitution gives congressional authority over federal spending.

“This is the money they need, this is the money they want, this gives them an incentive to work back,” Trump said of the lower improved unemployment benefits.

Republicans have argued that the higher payments were a disincentive for unemployed Americans to try to work back, although economists, including Federal Reserve officials, disputed that claim.

Trump also said he was stopping the tax bill, which pays for social security and other federal programs, an idea he has raised several times, but has been rejected by both Democrats and his other Republicans in Congress.

His orders would also stop evictions from rentals that have federal financial support and extend zero percent interest on federally funded student loans, he said.

“Congress Democrats have stonewalled our efforts to expand this relief,” Trump told reporters at his New Jersey golf club, in a room with a crowd of cheering supporters.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House of Representatives, had pushed for extending the improved unemployment benefits at the previous rate of $ 600 per week approved early in the crisis.

About two weeks of talks between White House officials and Congress Democrats ended on Friday with both sides still about $ 2 trillion apart on next steps to address the heavy human and economic toll that the coronavirus pandemic has taken. ‘ the United States, where she has killed more than 160,000 people.

Trump initially played down the threat of the disease and has drawn criticism for inconsistent reports about steps of public health such as social distance and masks.

The $ 600-a-week increase in unemployment benefits that has served as a lifeline for the tens of millions of Americans who lost their jobs in the pandemic expired at the end of July.

Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Friday offered to reduce a proposed $ 3.4 trillion coronavirus package passed by the House in May but ignored by the House of Representatives, by nearly one-third as Republicans would agree to more than double their $ 1 trillion counterfeit.

White House negotiators Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows have rejected the offer.

First Chamber leader Mitch McConnell, who was ousted late last month, ran into direct opposition from his party, with 20 of the 53 Republicans expected to oppose it.


Democrats have already warned that such executive orders are legally dubious and likely to be challenged in court.

They expressed support for others – Pelosi said this week that she would welcome an executive order to stop rent evictions.

While Trump had repeatedly pushed the idea of ​​executive orders to support relief, Schumer said on Friday that the White House team acknowledged that power was limited.

Slideshow (2 Images)

“The other choice is for them to do executive tasks that, by their own permission, they told us over and over again, are not that good,” Schumer said. “It does not deal with the opening of schools. It does not handle testing. It does not cover emergency treatment. It does not handle elections. It does not handle so many things. ”

A court battle could take months, and Trump has called on Congress to fight for benefits, declaring a national emergency response on the U.S.-Mexico border to move billions of dollars from the defense budget to pay for a wall he promised during his 2016 election campaign.

Congress passed legislation to stop him, but there were too few votes in the Republican-controlled Senate to pass his veto – a scenario that would likely play out again with less than 90 days before the November 3 presidential election.

Report by Jeff Mason; Written by Scott Malone; Edited by Diane Craft, Daniel Wallis and Jonathan Oatis

Our standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.