Was Trump right to bypass Congress to enact executive orders?
- For the first wave of stimulus checks, individual taxpayers received $1,200 each (plus an extra $500 for dependents) if their income was less than $75,000. Married couples received $2,400 if they earned less than $150,000.
- White House officials and Democratic leaders missed a self-imposed deadline to cut a deal on coronavirus aid, putting a hold on the second round of stimulus checks.
- Trump plans to take executive action via four proposals: extended unemployment benefits, hold on evictions, deferred student loans, and pushed payroll taxes.
- Because Congress is in charge of federal spending, Trump does not have the legal authority to issue executive orders regarding money spent for coronavirus.
President Trump was correct to bypass Congress to enact four new Executive Orders on behalf of the American people. The President had no options left but to immediately provide financial help to American workers earning less than $100,000 and those still unemployed by the COVID-19 pandemic. He also provided a short-term four-month elimination of the payroll tax on employees' wages. Trump has also asked Federal agencies to forego housing evictions and to delay any payments (or increased interest) on Federal student tuition loans.
The Congress had failed to act. The Secretary of the Treasury and the President's Chief of Staff met with the Democratic leadership 11 times over the weekend. They had agreed on key issues of a new stimulus plan, but Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer balked at an overall deal that failed to give them their policy wish list. There is some question as to whether the President can legally authorize such spending without approval from Congress. Still, time was running short, and the President does have the authority to dip into FEMA emergency monies that haven't been used yet, and allocate that money to fund the new Executive Orders.
The President is the head of the U.S. government Executive branch and is legally authorized to act in an emergency. In the face of the non-action by Congress, the President had little choice but to do what he could to help financially stabilize the American people and our economy.
While Congress has certainly done their part to fumble U.S. coronavirus relief, President Trump isn't helping matters by attempting to intervene with his ill-guided executive orders. Leaving aside the orders' content for a moment, the Constitution places all power to control federal spending in the hands of Congress, so the President doesn't truly have the authority to issue such orders. These actions are also sure to face opposition in Congress, which could lead to further delays in relief for the American people. In bypassing Congress on a third coronavirus bailout package, Trump's executive orders are lopsided, leaving out many issues that need to be urgently addressed.
Trump's proposed payroll tax deferral is a problem on at least two fronts. First, it would cut funding for Social Security and Medicare, putting millions of Americans at risk. Second, it only provides possible relief to those who are working, doing nothing for the millions who lost jobs through no fault of their own. However, even that possible relief is unlikely, as there are logistical problems that could keep workers from seeing any benefit from this provision.
There is also an order providing a continuation of the federal unemployment supplement, but it requires the states to cover 25% of the funding. This places further strain on state budgets, many of which are already facing shortfalls. The Democratic House proposal included funding for state, local and tribal governments, which have been at the forefront of the fight against the spread of the virus. By leaving out this funding, Trump's executive order makes it harder for them to keep their people safe.