President Donald Trump once again signaled he is working on an executive order on a payroll tax cut, extending the unemployment benefits and student loan repayment while Congress continues to work on the next coronavirus relief package. Trump has made it clear that he wants a payroll tax cut, which was excluded from the HEALS Act introduced by Senate Republicans last week. However, collecting and cutting taxes is the responsibility of Congress, not the executive branch.
"Upon departing the Oval Office for Ohio, I’ve notified my staff to continue working on an Executive Order with respect to Payroll Tax Cut, Eviction Protections, Unemployment Extensions, and Student Loan Repayment Options," the president tweeted Thursday morning. The tweet came a day after Wednesday's press conference when Trump said his administration is "exploring executive actions to provide protection against eviction" and "additional relief" to unemployed Americans. Trump told reporters he was "also looking at a term-limited suspension of the payroll tax."
Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have not supported the payroll tax cut, which Trump once said was necessary for any coronavirus relief bill to get his signature. Legal experts have questioned whether or not the president can unilaterally sign an executive order to create a payroll tax holiday, since the Constitution granted Congress the power to "lay and collect taxes," notes Forbes. The payroll tax cut could help employers keep employees, but it would also mean less money going to Social Security and Medicare. In addition, a payroll tax holiday is not going to help unemployed Americans not getting paychecks from employers.
The payroll tax cut
On Wednesday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows admitted there are "limitations" on what the president can do through an executive order. Still, the administration "will be as aggressive and as robust as we possibly can be as we deal with trying to meet the needs," Meadows said, reports The Hill. Trump has also argued that he can suspend the payroll tax "through executive order."
Conservatives Stephen Moore and Phil Kerpen recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal, arguing that Trump should declare a national economic emergency and order the IRS to cut payroll taxes temporarily. They wrote that Trump could defer the tax payments just as the Treasury Department delayed the tax filing deadline until July, then Trump could sign a law forgiving repayments of the deferred taxes. They also suggested Trump could make sure this helps only lower and middle-income earners by cutting the suspension to only those earning under $75,000. Moore serves as an economic adviser to Trump.prevnext
Student loan relief
When it comes to student loans, Trump has discussed extending the suspension of monthly payments, but it is not known exactly what the executive order on student loans could include, reports Politico. "They’re being drawn now," Trump told reporters late Thursday. "We’ll see what happens. It’s possible we’ll make a deal, but it’s also possible we won’t." The executive orders could be signed as soon as Friday or Saturday.
Extending the CARES Act's student loan relief is also popular among some Republicans. "With so much economic uncertainty, we can’t allow that provision to expire," Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said earlier this week. "Student loan debt is a real and growing problem in our country, and families should never be in the situation where they’re sacrificing their basic needs just to make those student loan payments, especially during the time of a global emergency."prevnext
The issue with unemployment benefits stems from Congress' inability to come to an agreement on extending the enhanced federal benefits included in the CARES Act. The program sent 30 million unemployed Americans $600 per week and expired on July 31. Republicans have sought to lower this to $200 or about 70% of the wages previously earned by unemployed workers. Democrats want to keep it at $600 per week and proposed extending it into January in their HEROES Act.
Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would support the $600 weekly benefits, but only if Trump backed it as well. "Wherever this thing settles between the president of the United States and his team, who has to sign it into law, and the Democrat, not insignificant minority in the Senate and majority in the House, is something I'm prepared to support," McConnell said. "Even if I have some problems with certain parts of it."prevnext
Lastly, Trump has he wants to help Americans who could be evicted. "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 Wednesday. The CARES Act's 120-day moratorium on evictions ended on July 25, but there are over 40 million unemployed Americans now, leaving millions close to eviction. Individual proposals have popped up in the House and Senate, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren's Protecting Renters From Evictions and Fees Act, which aims to stop evictions through March, and Rep. Maxine Waters' Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act of 2020.prevnext
Why Trump wants to sign executive orders on these issues
The whole reason why Trump is even considering pushing through these actions as executive orders is due to the stalled talks over the next coronavirus relief package. Although House Democrats passed the HEROES Act in May, Senate Republicans refused to take up the bill and did not introduce their own until last week, when McConnell introduced the HEALS Act. Since then, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have been meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to iron out their differences. So far, the negotiations have stalled. However, on CNBC Thursday, McConnell and Pelosi separately agreed there will be a solution soon. "Exactly when that deal comes together I can't tell you, but I think it will at some point in the near future," McConnell said.prevnext
Pelosi 'hopes' Trump will extend the eviction moratorium
During her appearance on CNBC Thursday, Pelosi told Jim Cramer she "hopes" Trump really does extend the eviction moratorium at this moment. "But you can't just have a moratorium, you have to have money," Pelosi said. "So, if they extend the moratorium, people won't have to pay their rent just yet, it will be pushed further down the road unless we get some money for them to compensate for what they have to get. And that's not just for the renters, that's for the landlords. What good is it to the landlords if you have a moratorium until the end of the year for people to pay their rent unless there's some money to help pay the rent? That's just one of the things."prev