(Headline USA) President Donald Trump on Saturday bypassed the nation’s lawmakers as he deferred payroll taxes and replaced an expired unemployment benefit.
At his private country club in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump signed executive orders to act where Congress hasn’t.
Perhaps most crucially, Trump moved to continue paying a supplemental federal unemployment benefit for millions of Americans out of work during the outbreak.
However, his order called for up to $400 payments each week, one-third less than the $600 people had been receiving.
Congress allowed those higher payments to lapse on Aug. 1, and negotiations to extend them have been mired in partisan gridlock.
Trump’s Democratic opponent in the presidential race, Joe Biden, said the president had issued “a series of half-baked measures” and accused him of putting Social Security at risk,” without providing any evidence.
The executive orders could face legal challenges questioning the president’s authority to spend taxpayer dollars without the express approval of Congress.
Trump largely stayed on the sidelines during the administration’s negotiations with congressional leaders, leaving the talks on his side to chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
“It’s $400 a week, and we’re doing it without the Democrats,” Trump said, asking states to cover 25% of the cost.
Trump is seeking to set aside $44 billion in previously approved disaster aid to help states maintain supplemental pandemic jobless benefits, but Trump said it would be up to states to determine how much, if any of it, to fund, so the benefits could be smaller still.
The president had said at his club on Friday night that “if Democrats continue to hold this critical relief hostage I will act under my authority as president to get Americans the relief they need.”
Democrats had said they would lower their spending demands from $3.4 trillion to $2 trillion but said the White House needed to increase their offer. Republicans have proposed a $1 trillion plan.
Friday’s jobs report, though it beat expectations, was smaller than the past two months.
Trump said Saturday the orders “will take care of pretty much this entire situation, as we know it.”
“This is not a perfect answer — we’ll be the first ones to say that,” Meadows said Friday as talks broke down. “But it is all that we can do and all the president can do within the confines of his executive power, and we’re going to encourage him to do it.”
Trump said the employee portion of the payroll tax would be deferred from Aug. 1 through the end of the year.
Trump said he’ll try to get lawmakers to extend it, and the timing would line up with a post-election lame-duck session in which Congress will try to pass government funding bills.
“If I win, I may extend and terminate,” Trump said, repeating a longtime goal but remaining silent on how he’d fund the Medicare and Social Security benefits that the 7% tax on employee income covers.
Employers also pay 7.65% of their payrolls into the funds.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press.