Typically, such actions require congressional approval.
In August, Trump signed four executive actions meant to provide more unemployment aid, eviction protections, student loan relief and to defer payroll tax payments. The moves have had mixed success and came as political talks faltered on Capitol Hill.
Since then, the bipartisan urgency that propelled Congress to act with near-unanimity in March and April to approve an unprecedented $3 trillion in relief has eroded even further. In its place is bitter partisan bickering, with each side accusing the other of playing politics and acting in bad faith.
“Democrats just point fingers, call names and keep blocking American families from getting any more help before the November election,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Wednesday on the Senate floor.
McConnell has been under pressure from a handful of vulnerable GOP incumbents who wanted to vote on a coronavirus-relief measure before going back to their states for the final campaign push. The new bill, even if it doesn’t become law, could aid in those efforts, some Republicans believe.
“I think the opportunity to signal their support for a targeted, responsible and responsive package this week is going to be essential,” said Sen. Todd C. Young (R-Ind.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Democratic leaders and top White House officials met in July and parts of August to try to reach an agreement on a new economic-relief package, concerned about the impact of expiring unemployment benefits, small business aid and eviction protections. But those negotiations faltered as both sides dug in, and sporadic efforts to revive them have failed.
Asked on Wednesday whether a bipartisan deal was possible, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he was not sure.
The only negotiations happening are on a stand-alone spending bill known as a continuing resolution, or CR, to keep the government from shutting down in October. The White House and Democrats have signaled a willingness to pass such a measure quickly before heading home to campaign for reelection, although they have yet to reach agreement on how long it should last.
McConnell said Wednesday that he would like to see the stopgap spending bill last into December, but Schumer said no decisions had been made.
“I think both parties want to get out of here and campaign,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) said. “The CR is the next order of big business to do and the cleaner the better, the quicker.”
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said, “My guess would be that if we leave in September with a CR we will not come back to do anything before the election.”
That means any additional unemployment assistance or help for schools, health-care providers, cities and states, individual Americans, or the postal system looks to be bogged down.
Many Democrats have said much more needs to be done to help the economy, while there is a significant bloc of Senate Republicans who have opposed spending any more money after the unprecedented stimulus in the spring. Pressure from this group forced McConnell to abandon a $1 trillion bill he introduced in July in favor of the legislation that will come to a vote Thursday, which costs about half as much.
Democrats have largely rejected the Senate GOP offering, saying instead that Republicans should negotiate from a $3.4 trillion bill that the House passed in May. That measure included some provisions that the White House supports, such as a new round of stimulus checks for households and small business aid. But the House Democrats’ bill also includes provisions that the White House says it will not accept, such as nearly $1 trillion for states and cities.
“Some of the Republicans in the Senate need to be listening and need to feel the pressure from their communities,” said Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), a freshman lawmaker who flipped a Republican-held district in 2018.
Trump has repeatedly said he would not accept some of the demands from Democrats as part of the economic-relief talks, but he has also made clear he thinks more government assistance is needed to help the economy.
At a White House news conference on Friday, Trump floated redeploying $300 billion in unspent funds in an “account” approved by Congress through the Cares Act. The president was referring to the Economic Stabilization Fund created by Congress in March, which was intended to be loaned to distressed businesses but much of which has not yet been disbursed, according to two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
Trump suggested he may be able to use this money without authorization, but stressed his preference is to have Congress sign off on moving the funding to other purposes.
“We have $300 billion in an account that we didn’t use — and we are willing to use that,” Trump said. “I think there is a theory that I could do it without having to go back [to Congress], but I think it would be appropriate to go back, and I would ask Congress to approve it.”
Stephen Moore, an outside economic adviser to the White House, has pushed for the White House to go further in redistributing money without congressional approval, citing President Obama’s unilateral action to shield young immigrants from deportation as a precedent.
Moore said Trump told him that the administration faces resistance to some of these ideas from attorneys at the Treasury Department. A spokeswoman for the Treasury Department declined to comment.
“They’re trying to figure out what they can do legally, what authorities they have, and there are differences of opinion on that,” Moore said. “Trump would like to do another flurry of executive orders that would jump-start the economy.”
The Washington Post. (c) 2020.