Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin expressed that he has no concerns surrounding the legality of President Trump’s executive actions on coronavirus relief during an interview on Fox News Sunday.
On Saturday afternoon, the President signed a flurry of executive actions on coronavirus relief after Democrats and the White House failed to reach an agreement on a relief bill. Democrats and some Republicans, including Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), have railed against Trump’s move to bypass Congress in issuing executive orders and memoranda that raise a host of new questions for unemployed Americans and are likely to prompt lawsuits. Critics argue that Trump’s executive actions demonstrate executive overreach, arguing that the Constitution gives Congress the authority to appropriate spending.
When asked by Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace about Sasse’s comment characterizing Trump’s executive actions as “unconstitutional slop,” Mnuchin claimed that they were cleared by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.
“The President knew unemployment insurance was ending. He said let’s continue at $400,” Mnuchin said, referring to an executive action providing up to $400 in unemployment benefits — a reduction from its previous run at $600 a week — that also asks states to cover 25% of the cost.
Mnuchin added that states can either take the 25% out of the money that the federal government had already given or that the President can waive it. The Treasury secretary then claimed, without specifics, that states have told the administration that “they can get this up and running immediately.”
Mnuchin went on to warn Democrats against lawsuits challenging Trump’s executive actions, framing potential legal challenges as an attack against unemployment benefits.
“And I would say if the Democrats want to challenge us in court and hold up unemployment benefits to those hardworking Americans who are out of a job because of COVID, they’re going to have a lot of explaining to do,” Mnuchin said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) blasted Trump’s executive actions during Sunday morning interviews, but stopped short of committing to a legal challenge against the President’s move.
Although Pelosi called the actions “absurdly unconstitutional” during an interview on CNN, she declined to say whether Democrats will take legal action against them.
Schumer similarly criticized Trump’s executive actions on ABC’s “This Week” by calling the move weak and ineffective, but that he would “leave that up to the attorneys” regarding the legality of the President’s move.
Watch Mnuchin’s remarks below:
Mnuchin says Trump's executive orders were cleared by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel pic.twitter.com/stTvJsbBZO
— Talking Points Memo (@TPM) August 9, 2020