President Donald Trump is trying hard to sell his flurry of executive actions over the weekend that fall short both of what he said they’d do and what Congress was trying to achieve in a COVID-19 relief package.
After signing the actions at a press conference-campaign rally hybrid at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey on Saturday, Trump has been suggesting that Democrats are itching to return to the negotiating table.
“The Democrats have called,” Trump said from the airport at Morristown, New Jersey on Sunday night. “They’d like to get together. And we say if it’s not a waste of time, we’ll do it.”
“I hear that Nancy Pelosi wants to call, and she wants to see if she can do something,” he added. “But they’re much more inclined to make a deal now than they would’ve been two days ago.”
He doubled down Monday morning.
So now Schumer and Pelosi want to meet to make a deal. Amazing how it all works, isn’t it. Where have they been for the last 4 weeks when they were “hardliners”, and only wanted BAILOUT MONEY for Democrat run states and cities that are failing badly? They know my phone number!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 10, 2020
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Monday that they’d had no contact at all with Trump.
“Fables from Donald Trump. Fables. That’s what he seems to specialize in,” Schumer said on MSNBC. “I didn’t call him. Speaker Pelosi didn’t call him. No, we didn’t call him.”
“He has not called us,” he added. “I haven’t spoken to him — I spoke to him during the last bill when Mnuchin was there. Meadows wasn’t. We got more done. But I haven’t spoken to him since.”
The four lead negotiators on the package — Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for the Democrats and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows for the Republicans — do not currently have public plans to meet. They met almost daily the last two weeks, ultimately failing to come together on both topline numbers and specific planks of the relief package.
Mnuchin, who the Democrats have repeatedly said is easier to work with than Meadows, parroted Trump’s line Monday about the Democrats being newly eager to meet.
“You know, there’s a deal to do if the Democrats are reasonable and want to compromise but if their attitude is, you know, we’d rather give you nothing than agree on things, then we’re not going to get a deal,” he said on CNBC. “But I heard Pelosi over the weekend and Schumer and I think they’re willing to compromise again — if we can get a fair deal, we’ll do it this week.”
Negotiations stalled out last week after Democrats offered to drop $1 trillion from their plan if the Republicans would go up $1 trillion in their proposals. The White House negotiators rejected the compromise with “vehemence,” Schumer said.
Mnuchin and Meadows told reporters at that point that they’d advise Trump to go ahead with executive orders, the content of which they’d been floating for days.
Trump signed four actions Saturday — one order and three memoranda — which he said were centered on reinstating unemployment benefits at a lower level, extending the moratorium on evictions, deferring the payroll tax payments and deferring student loan payments.
On closer examination though, many of those actions fall short of Trump’s promises.
The unemployment benefit, now to run at $400 a week instead of the previous $600, requires 25 percent of the cost to be made up by states, an economic impossibility for many already ravaged by the pandemic. In addition, one of the sources of the $300 of federal aid — $44 million from a federal disaster relief fund — is only enough to fund the program for around five weeks. And on top of all that, the only people eligible for the benefit would already have to be getting at least $100 from their state’s regular unemployment insurance — a clause that omits the lowest income people, particularly those that rely on tips.
Trump’s payroll tax cut — an idea that he’s long been musing over, despite its unpopularity in both parties — is also riddled with problems. Without an act of Congress, the taxes would be due at some point in the future, making it a risk for employers to stop taking the money out of employees’ paychecks now. Trump said that he’d consider making the tax cut permanent — but only if he’s reelected.
And even if the employers took the chance, it would take a while to change their systems. Critics have also been up in arms over the potential blow to Social Security and Medicare, both of which get most of their funding from the tax.
On the rent moratorium order, Trump didn’t actually order anything — he just directed the Department of Housing and Urban Development to consider staunching evictions while working within existing laws.
Schumer and Pelosi have been painting the actions as both unconstitutional and well short of what the COVID-19-decimated economy needs to stabilize.
“Unfortunately, the president’s executive orders, described in one word, could be paltry, in three words, unworkable, weak and far too narrow,” Schumer said Sunday.