President Trump extends unemployment benefits, defers payroll tax

National News

BEDMINSTER, N.J. (AP) — Bypassing Congress, President Donald Trump on Saturday signed executive orders deferring payroll taxes for some Americans and extending unemployment benefits after negotiations on a new coronavirus rescue package collapsed.

Trump accused Democrats of loading up their rescue bill with priorities unrelated to the coronavirus. “We’ve had it,” he said at a news conference at his country club in Bedminister, New Jersey.

Trump said the payroll tax cut would apply to those earning less than $100,000 a year. He said that if he is reelected in November, he would look at the possibility of making the payroll tax permanent.

Extra aid for the unemployed will total $400 a week, a cut from the $600 that just expired.

Trump also signed executive orders holding off student loan payments and extending the freeze on evictions.

Trump has largely stayed on the sidelines during the administration’s negotiations with congressional leaders. The talks, which broke down in recent days, were led on his side by chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

The president said at his club on Friday night that “if Democrats continue to hold this critical relief hostage I will act under my authority as president to get Americans the relief they need.”

Democrats had said they would lower their spending demands from $3.4 trillion to $2 trillion but said the White House needed to increase their offer. Republicans have proposed a $1 trillion plan.

White House aides have watched the talks break down with apprehension, fearful that failure to close a deal could further damage an economic recovery already showing signs of slowing down. Friday’s jobs report, though it beat expectations, was smaller than the past two months, in part because a resurgence of the virus has led to states rolling back their reopenings.

The president’s team believes the economy needs to stabilize and show signs of growth for him to have any chance at winning reelection. Aides were hoping to frame the expected executive orders signings as a sign that Trump was taking action in a time of crisis. But it also would reinforce the view that the president, who took office declaring he was a dealmaker, was unable to steer the process to an agreement.

“This is not a perfect answer — we’ll be the first ones to say that,” Meadows said Friday as talks broke down. “But it is all that we can do and all the president can do within the confines of his executive power, and we’re going to encourage him to do it.”

Watch Congress leaders react, after talks on Friday did not end with a deal for a new coronavirus aid package in the video below.

Trump has not specified how the payroll tax deferral would work, and it was unclear whether he had the authority to take such an action without approval from Congress.

The move would not aid unemployed workers, who do not pay the tax when they are jobless, and would face bipartisan opposition in Congress. The cut, long a Trump wish, would affect payroll taxes that are intended to cover Medicare and Social Security benefits and take 7 percent of an employee’s income. Employers also pay 7.65% of their payrolls into the funds.

Both the House and Senate have left Washington, with members sent home on instructions to be ready to return for a vote on an agreement. With no deal in sight, their absence raised the possibility of a prolonged stalemate that stretches well into August and even September.


Associated Press writer Andrew Taylor in Washington contributed to this report.


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