“We were all praying for a stimulus,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio during Wednesday’s media briefing. “That looks like it’s dead now.”
U.S. President Donald Trump did sign an executive order designed to boost the economy and three memorandia on Saturday doing an end around on Congress to do so. But some believe that the executive order does the opposite and may also be illegal.
With the criticism of his handling of the pandemic growing louder, public disapproval of him increasing and Democratic presidential candidate Biden’s polling numbers much better than his, Trump signed his executive order at his Bedminster, N.J. based private country club. The executive order extends federal unemployment benefits, but drops the amount of money Americans would receive from $600 to $400, asking states to pick up 25% of the cost. The executive order also defers payroll taxes and student loan payments and would freeze some evictions.
Trump’s order also forces states to foot some of the bill, devoting $44 billion in disaster aid (aid that was already approved by Congress) to supplement jobless benefits; it leaves it up to the states to figure out how to fund them. This could also make the benefits Americans receive even smaller.
But there are more questions than answers according to Trump’s political adversaries.
New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Trump’s actions are illegal and it would worsen New York State’s current state.
“Now first, the Executive Order will be challenged in court. I don’t believe, I think there’s serious legal questions,” said Cuomo during a media briefing this week. “It’ll be challenged. No one will get anything, and the situation will get even worse than it is in the country today. But even if you got past the legal challenges, you make it impossible for a state. It would cost New York State $4 billion between now and December to pay 25% of the unemployment insurance.
“His executive order says the unemployment insurance could be $400 but the state has to pay $100 of the $400—that’s $4.2 billion,” continued Cuomo. “We started with a 30-billion-dollar hole and your solution is to cost me another $4 billion? Thank you. That’s handing the drowning man an anchor. ‘Hold onto this, maybe it’ll help.’ No, not an anchor, does not help a drowning man.”
Republicans and Democrats have played political ping-pong with each looking to send their desired policies past the other during relief bill negotiations. There are versions of the relief bill that both parties agreed on, including some of the mandates included in Trump’s executive orders. According to some, it’s an illegal power grab by the president to declare his rule unilaterally over Washington, D.C.
When a reporter at Trump’s news briefing asked him about dropping the federal unemployment payments to $400 a month, he said “This is the money they need, this is the money they want, this gives them a great incentive to go back to work.” Trump’s announcement of the executive order drew applause from those in attendance.
However, a Republican senator criticized Trump’s actions, calling the order “unconstitutional slop.” U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska denounced Trump’s attempt to circumvent Congress and ignore the three branches of government.
“President Obama did not have the power to unilaterally rewrite immigration law with DACA and President Trump does not have the power to unilaterally rewrite the payroll tax law,” said Sasse in a statement.
In a joint statement, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi labeled Trump’s executive order a virtual finger in the eye to working-class Americans.
“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,” read the statement. “These policy announcements provide little real help to families. For instance, not only does the president’s announcement not actually extend the eviction moratorium, it provides no assistance to help pay the rent, which will only leave desperate families to watch their debt pile higher. Instead of passing a bill, now President Trump is cutting families’ unemployment benefits and pushing states further into budget crises, forcing them to make devastating cuts to life-or-death services.”
Under law, a U.S. president can’t create a tax or suspend one agreed on by Congress. A president can only veto laws Congress passed. Trump has no power to impose his will, the type of power he wants, as declared with his executive order. Community Service Society of New York President and CEO David Jones said that Trump’s actions leave people struggling with rent at the mercy of the federal government.
“He essentially instructs the federal agencies to do more to help renters, but there’s no mandate,” Jones said. “This is an obvious shot at communities in New York where you have a lot of low-wage workers who have lost jobs. I can’t help but think that there’s a racial element involved in this.”