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Trump's order to bypass Congress on coronavirus relief faces likely legal challenges

Chris Megerian, Anna M. Phillips and Sarah D. Wire, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump on Saturday said he was bypassing Congress and taking unilateral action to provide financial relief to Americans struggling during the coronavirus crisis, despite uncertainty about his legal authority to do so.

Following the breakdown of talks on Capitol Hill to reach a bipartisan deal, Trump signed four orders that he said would extend enhanced federal unemployment benefits, defer some employees' payroll taxes, continue a temporary ban on evictions and reduce the burden of student loans.

His action would reduce the temporary federal unemployment add-on for jobless Americans to $400 from the $600-a-week payments that recently expired. To pay for this, Trump is hoping to use $44 billion in previously approved disaster aid to states.

Trump also said states would be asked to contribute 25% of the cost -- or $100 per week -- and it is unclear whether states would be able or willing to do that.

Trump said Americans earning less than $100,000 would be eligible for a payroll tax holiday through the end of this year, after which they would be required to pay the deferred taxes. But he said that if he is reelected in November, he would forgive the deferred taxes and make the cut permanent.

Democrats roundly criticized Trump's actions.

 

"This is not presidential leadership. These orders are not real solutions," said presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. "They are just another cynical ploy designed to deflect responsibility. Some measures do far more harm than good."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., called on Trump and Republicans to return to the negotiating table to work out a bill.

"We're disappointed that instead of putting in the work to solve Americans' problems, the president instead chose to stay on his luxury golf course to announce unworkable, weak and narrow policy announcements to slash the unemployment benefits that millions desperately need and endanger seniors' Social Security and Medicare," the Democratic leaders said in a statement.

Speaking for the second time this week before a small crowd of supporters who cheered the president at his New Jersey golf club, Trump gave a disjointed speech. He accused top congressional Democrats of blocking desperately needed financial assistance and claimed the economy was "coming back very very strong."

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