Aug 7, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump floats executive action even if stimulus deal is reached

President Donald Trump stops to talk to reporters as he departs the White House.
Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

The White House is finalizing a series of executive orders addressing key coronavirus stimulus priorities if negotiations with Congress fall apart, and it's leaving the door open for President Trump to use them even if a deal is reached that doesn't encompass all of his priorities, two administration officials tell Axios.

What we’re hearing: “I wouldn't be surprised that, if something gets left off the table, we’d be like ‘we can take this executive action too and be able to win on it anyway,’” one official said.

Details: The most likely executive orders would be one to suspend payroll taxes and another to let states use money already allocated in the CARES Act to make unemployment insurance supplemental payments.

  • Trump said Thursday that he expects to sign the executive orders as early as today.

Why it matters: Several of the benefits laid out in the CARES Act have already expired or are close to expiring, and leaders on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are still far apart on reaching an agreement on a new tranche of funding.

Behind the scenes: Trump and his top negotiators, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, still prefer to do this legislatively — because they could get huge chunks of money that the White House can’t produce on its own and a bipartisan bill would receive broader support.

  • But the president is also anxious to be seen as being in control of the process, the officials said. Top aides and Republicans have also told him that if they don’t succeed at producing some sort of economic package, Americans will see it as a White House failure.
  • “It’s an election year. We need to get this done. We need to pump money into the economy and the only ones who benefit politically from not doing that are [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi, [Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer and [Joe] Biden,” one House Republican told Axios.
  • The lawmaker noted that Pelosi and House Democrats already passed a bill, while the Senate has struggled to get support for their own.

What they're saying: “Certainly there are limitations with what we can do from an executive order point of view, but we will be as aggressive and robust as we possibly can be,” Meadows told reporters Thursday evening. “At this point, we're trying to be prepared.”

  • White House spokesman Judd Deere told Axios: “A legislative solution is the priority, but negotiations are a two-way street and Democrats are unfortunately playing politics, which is why President Trump is fully prepared to use his executive authority to help those who continue to be impacted by this virus from China.”
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