President Donald Trump announced four executive actions on Saturday, including continued expanded unemployment benefits and a temporary payroll tax deferral for some workers, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to hobble the U.S. economy.
Trump also ordered continued eviction protection and student-loan relief.
The moves could jeopardize negotiations with congressional Democrats over an additional coronavirus relief package, with the two sides trillions of dollars apart on key issues, including aid to state governments and the amount of supplementary unemployment benefits. The president, though, said he'd continue to negotiate with Democrats.
"What Democrats primarily want is bailout money -- has nothing to do with" the coronavirus, Trump said during a news conference at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. "We're not willing to do that."
Trump said his action authorizes the U.S. Treasury to allow companies to defer payroll taxes for Americans making less than $100,000 a year from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31. He said if he's reelected in November, he may extend the deferral and terminate the tax for some workers.
"This fake tax cut would also be a big shock to workers who thought they were getting a tax cut when it was only a delay," Sen. Ron Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement. "These workers would be hit with much bigger payments down the road."
The president said another order would provide $400 a week in jobless benefits -- down from $600 weekly that had been provided through last week, authorized by a Congressional stimulus bill in March -- and that states would be responsible for covering 25% of the cost.
To act on his own, the president is relying on an expansive and controversial reading of executive power that likely will face legal challenges. Trump's advisers say executive action could pressure Democrats to reduce their demands and allow him to argue to voters that he's looking out for their well-being amid congressional inaction.
But the gambit risks alienating Democratic lawmakers and decreasing the odds for a deal that both sides say is necessary to help the economy recover from a pandemic that's decimated industries and left nearly 160,000 Americans dead so far.
Democrats criticized the president when he threatened the move during negotiations, saying the administration would be better off returning to the bargaining table. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had been meeting throughout the week with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to try to craft a deal, without success.