I suppose we should have seen this coming. As we’ve discussed here previously, Congress failed to reach an agreement that would extend federally enhanced unemployment benefits for those who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, previously set at $600 per week. After talks broke down, the President signed an executive order this afternoon that would split the difference and provide an additional $400 per week to the jobless. How this will play out with Republicans who wanted a more modest package and Democrats who claimed that the President had no authority to do this remains to be seen. (NBC News)
President Donald Trump signed executive orders Saturday for coronavirus economic relief, upending negotiations with Congress after lawmakers failed to reach a deal on Friday.
The executive orders defer payroll taxes through the end of the year for Americans earning less than $100,000 a year.
They also defer student loan payments through the end of the year; continue eviction moratoriums; and extend enhanced unemployment benefits that expired last week, but at a reduced level of $400 instead of the prior $600.
“If I’m victorious on November 3rd, I plan to forgive these taxes and make permanent cuts to the payroll tax,” Trump said. “Joe Biden and the Democrats may not want that, they don’t want that.”
I don’t want to go back to the idea that Trump is playing three-dimensional political chess here, but this is a pretty good move. Both Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer had previously said that if the President tried to step in and take executive action on this matter that they would go to court to block him. Well, he’s done it.
So where does that leave Chuck and Nancy? They’ve supposedly been in the trenches fighting tooth and nail to extend the federal unemployment enhancement benefits. They couldn’t cut a deal with Cocaine Mitch that Trump would (supposedly) approve, so everyone walked away from the table with no extension to the benefit. As long as that harmed unemployed workers, it benefitted the Democrats who would see the angry army of unemployed showing up at the polls ready to vote against the Republicans.
But now Donald Trump has stepped in with the Hammer of Thor and said that the unemployed could have 2/3 of the previous enhancement back to tide them over. This leaves Chuck and Nancy in the position to either stop the President from helping all of those who are out of work or eat their previous words. With apologies to all of the NeverTrumpers out there, this was a pretty brilliant play. Speaker Pelosi can either back down on her previous threat and let the money flow or be the one to personally block the unemployed from receiving a boost.
This looks like one point to Trump, if not the entire game, set and match. Perhaps the Democrats will come up with a counterstrategy over the weekend.