In the midst of COVID-19, President Trump acts, Congress flounders

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In the midst of COVID-19, President Trump has issued a series of executive orders aiming to provide emergency relief to millions of Americans

The move has been hotly contested by Congressional Democrats, particularly House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who described the President’s orders as “constitutional slop” and an “illusion.”

In one order, Trump temporarily slashed payroll taxes putting a “payroll tax holiday” in place until the end of 2020 for Americans making less than $100,000 a year. The second order aims to provide relief to holders of student loan debt by putting a pause on monthly payments and interest rates until the end of 2020.

The Trump payroll tax cuts are estimated to save the average American up to $1200 over a four-month period according to White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow.

In addition to cutting payroll taxes and pausing student loans, Trump has placed a moratorium on evictions nationwide with federally backed mortgages, assuaging fears for Americans who are concerned they will lose their homes as the pandemic continues to drag on.

By far the most impactful order is the extension of federal unemployment benefits to $400 per week, a slight decrease from the previously guaranteed $600 per week. Trump has defended the decrease in weekly payments by arguing that $600 is too much and will disincentivize people from returning to work.

The $400 comes with a caveat, however. States will be required to pay 25% of the $400 from currently existing funds. It remains to be seen whether each state will be on board with the President’s plan.

Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle have sparred over unemployment benefits with Democrats wanting to keep them at the previous $600 level while Republicans want to slash them to $200.

Trump has attributed the bypassing of Congress to inaction on the part of Democrats.

“We have repeatedly stated our willingness to immediately sign legislation providing expanded unemployment benefits, protecting families from eviction and providing relief payment to families,” said President Trump.

Trump further added that “Democrats have refused these offers. What they really want is bailout money for Democrat governors and mayors that have been run very very badly for many years.”

According to Trump, the inability of Republicans to make a deal with Democrats has come down to issues completely unrelated to COVID-19, including “the mass release of inmates, including serious felons,” and “stimulus checks to illegal aliens.”

While the orders may generate support for Trump ahead of the 2020 election, it still is unknown whether the orders will be enacted at all since Congress holds the purse strings. Reporters pushed Trump on this question after the announcement on Saturday.

For the most part, Trump confidently parried probing questions from reporters, arguing “This will go very rapidly through the courts. If we get sued, it’s somebody that doesn’t want people to get money, and that’s not a very popular thing.”

Alongside the executive orders, Congressional leaders and White House representatives continue to debate what the next coronavirus relief package will include and not include. As of today, an agreement has not been met.

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