President Trump on Saturday issued a series of executive orders to defer payroll taxes and federal student loan payments, halt evictions, and replace an expired unemployment benefit with a lower amount after lawmakers failed to reach an agreement on another stimulus package before entering a monthlong recess.
The controversial move comes days after Trump told reporters he would suspend payroll taxes himself after lawmakers refused to incorporate the idea into the next stimulus package.
As it stands, payroll taxes will be deferred starting August 1st through the end of 2020 and will need to be repaid in the future. Trump has already hinted that he may forgive the debt if he is re-elected in November.
Some experts say the tax holiday will produce an immediate 7.5% pay increase for working Americans, while others say the Treasury cannot legally ask employers to pass the savings along to employees. Either way, employers are unlikely to participate unless they are certain the tax will be forgiven.
The executive order on unemployment provides a $400-per-week benefit that is a compromise between the $600 proposed by Democrats and the $200 proposed by Republicans. Trump has asked states to cover 25% of the new benefit and is hoping to use $44 billion in disaster aid funds to help states. The previous unemployment benefits, which expired August 1st, were fully funded by the federal government.
The package also calls on the Treasury and HUD departments to find money to help those struggling to pay rent.
“My Administration has been working around the clock in good faith to reach an agreement with Democrats on additional China virus relief. Already, my Administration has enacted over three trillion dollars in historic relief, saving many tens of millions of dollars in jobs, and you see how fast the economy is coming back,” said Trump. “We have tremendous enthusiasm, tremendous spirt, and tremendous job growth,” he continued. “We set a record on number of jobs in the last three months. It’s the most jobs ever created in a three-month period.”
Critics say Trump lacks the authority to suspend payroll taxes without congressional approval and cannot dictate state spending.
Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) described Trump’s use of executive orders to accomplish policy goals as “unconstitutional slop,” while presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden described “half-baked measures” that put Social Security at risk.
Author’s Note: Trump’s bold decision shows that he is acting where Congress has failed. His decision will get money into the pockets of working Americans and help them recover from the pandemic. If Democrats or states attempt to sue Trump for subverting Congress, they will be portrayed as trying to block people from getting money.