Pelosi calls Trump's coronavirus relief executive actions 'absurdly unconstitutional'

Andrew Cummings
August 9, 2020

Democrats said they offered to reduce a proposed $3.4 trillion coronavirus aid package, which the House passed in May but the Senate ignored, by almost one third if Republicans would agree to more than double their $1 trillion counteroffer but Mr Trump's negotiators turned them down.

However, his executive orders are likely to face court challenges, since they short-circuit Congress, which has constitutional power over most spending decisions.

COVID-19 relief needs to come from legislation in Congress, not the president, Cuomo said.

On Trump's supposed unemployment fix-which critics called an "administrative nightmare" and includes the expectation that state governments, now suffering budget shortages, must kick in a share-Warren suggested the plan is ridiculous compared to what Democrats have been demanding and fighting for all summer long. Democrats initially sought a $3.4 trillion package, but said they lowered their ask in talks to $2 trillion.

Andrew Rudalevige, chair of the Department of Government and Legal Studies at Bowdoin College, told NPR on Saturday that the unemployment benefits measure is particularly controversial because it is "really using appropriated funds by Congress in ways that Congress might not have intended". Though Trump cast it as a necessary step given the deterioration of congressional negotiations, the president himself was not an active participant in those talks.

"If I'm victorious on November 3rd, I plan to forgive these taxes and make permanent cuts to the payroll tax", Trump declared.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden called the orders a "series of half-baked measures" and accused Trump of putting Social Security "at grave risk" by delaying the collection of payroll taxes that pay for the program. "These legally dubious actions aren't real relief for states and families-they're a cruel joke".

Republicans have argued that higher payments were a disincentive for unemployed Americans to try to return to work, though economists, including Federal Reserve officials, disputed that assertion.

The Democratic chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Richard E. Neal of MA, accused Trump of "brazenly circumventing Congress to institute tax policy that destabilizes Social Security".

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer were negotiating with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin all week, but the parties couldn't hammer out a deal. He also cited a threat to Medicare funding.

Democrats and some Republicans - notably, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska - have termed Trump's actions unconstitutional.

"The pen-and-phone theory of executive lawmaking is unconstitutional slop", he said. The payroll tax deferment, which Trump repeatedly advocated, has met bipartisan opposition. "Under the Constitution, that power belongs to the American people acting through their members of Congress".

Negotiations broke down this week between the White House and top Democrats in Congress over how best to help Americans cope with the heavy human and economic toll of the crisis, which has killed more than 160,000 people across the country.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, however, welcomed the president's actions, blaming Democrats for sabotaging talks on the relief bill.

Other reports by iNewsToday