Trump's orders on virus relief won't do what he says they will


Trump's recent orders won't stop evictions or cut payroll taxes, and they've only created confusion and concern around unemployment insurance.

Donald Trump is facing criticism from both sides of the aisle after he signed a slew of directives on Saturday to attempt to unilaterally push forward coronavirus-related measures without the help of Congress.

But the orders he signed don't do many of the things he claims, and are causing anger and confusion among both Democrats and Republicans. Some are saying the orders are legally dubious and will not fix the problems facing the country.

In remarks made on Saturday, Trump said he signed an executive order "protecting people from eviction."

But the order Trump signed merely tells two federal agencies to "consider" whether halting evictions are "reasonably necessary to prevent the further spread of COVID-19." That is not an eviction moratorium, as Trump claimed.

Trump also said, "Democrats don't want to do anything having to do with protecting people from eviction."

However, Democrats passed an eviction moratorium on May 15 as part of a major coronavirus relief bill that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to debate, let alone put up for a vote.

Trump also ordered a deferment of the payroll tax — an important tax that funds Social Security and Medicare. Under Trump's order, Americans will still owe the payroll taxes that would have come out of their paychecks — they'll just have to pay the tax in one large lump sum after the deferment ends.

A payroll tax deferment wouldn't do anything to help unemployed Americans who are not earning paychecks and could, according to policy experts, cause the Social Security program to become insolvent earlier.

Trump also took executive action to cut the weekly unemployment insurance boost from $600 a week to $400 a week.

However, states would be on the hook to pay for $100 of that weekly payment — money many states simply do not have as they struggle from coronavirus budget shortfalls.

"The answer is, 'I don't know yet,'" Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine told CNN's "State of the Union" when asked whether his state could actually afford to chip in for the unemployment insurance payments.

Democrats, who have been trying to get Republicans to pass coronavirus relief for months, condemned Trump's executive actions.

"The president's meager, weak and unconstitutional actions further demand that we have an agreement," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on "Fox News Sunday."

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska also criticized Trump's orders.

"The pen-and-phone theory of executive lawmaking is unconstitutional slop. President Obama did not have the power to unilaterally rewrite immigration law with DACA, and President Trump does not have the power to unilaterally rewrite the payroll tax law," Sasse said in a statement.

"Under the Constitution, that power belongs to the American people acting through their members of Congress," Sasse asserted.

Even the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board — a conservative group that has backed Trump's actions — criticized Trump's moves.

"Covid-19 is a national emergency, and unemployment is the result of the virus and government shutdowns. But Congress passed jobless aid as part of the Cares Act that was separate from the Disaster Relief Fund. Mr. Trump is commandeering the power of the purse that the Constitution reserves for Congress," the Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.