President Donald Trump announced planned executive orders extending coronavirus relief programs Friday night in Bedminster, New Jersey after Congressional leaders were unable to reach an agreement on the next coronavirus relief package. Trump left White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer Friday morning for a last-ditch effort to make a deal while he arrived in New Jersey for a three-day weekend at his golf course. Earlier in the week, Trump suggested he would sign executive orders if no deal could be made.
While no orders were signed on Friday, Trump did detail his plans for the orders if he ends up going down that path. His top decision is the controversial payroll tax cut that is opposed by Republicans and Democrats in Congress, saying he would extend it through the end of the year and make it retroactive to July 1. He also spoke about an extension for the unemployment benefits, aid for those facing evictions and more through the year's end. He also made clear he will extend the suspension of student loan interest indefinitely. All of this apparently hinges on the continuing negotiations with Congress and the legality of the president's goals is also up in the air.
#BREAKING: President Trump announces INDEFINITE deferral of student loan interest payments and interest forgiveness and enhancement of unemployment benefits until year's end: "Not their fault." pic.twitter.com/erNyLLGBWt— The Hill (@thehill) August 7, 2020
The White House and Congressional Democratic leaders have been in talks since last week after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced the HEALS Act, two months after House Democrats passed the HEROES Act. McConnell's bill costs $1 trillion, less than a third of the cost of the HEROES Act. Pelosi offered to agree to a $2 trillion stimulus package, but the White House rejected this. In a letter, Pelosi told colleagues Democrats wanted to spend $915 billion to help states and municipalities, but Republicans were only offering $150 billion. Trump argued that Democrats are "only interested in Bailout Money for poorly run Democrat cities and states" and it has nothing to do with the "China Virus." He said the administration is "going a different way."
In recent days, Trump has been preparing Washington for coming stimulus relief-related executive orders. On Thursday, he tweeted the orders will focus on "Payroll Tax Cut, Eviction Protections, Unemployment Extensions, and Student Loan Repayment Options." The payroll tax cut has been an issue Trump has voiced support for, but Republicans did not include in the HEALS Act. The payroll tax cut would help employers, but it would also mean less funding for Medicare, Social Security, and other federal programs.
When it comes to evictions, the CARES Act's federal moratorium expired on July 25 and several states do not have eviction moratoriums in place. "A lot of people are going to be evicted but I'm going to stop it because I'll do it myself if I have to," Trump said on Wednesday. His order on student loans could continue the suspension of monthly payments.
The order on the unemployment extension gives Republicans and Democrats more time to negotiate the future of the enhanced federal unemployment benefits while unemployed Americans continue to receive checks. The weekly $600 payment ended on July 31, and Republicans had argued this disincentivized people from searching for jobs. The HEALS Act called for the benefit to be cut down to $200. McConnell recently said he would support extending the $600 weekly benefit if Trump also supported it.