With the fourth pandemic relief bill stalled in Congress, the White House is considering “unilateral action” on the part of the president to get aid to Americans in crisis.
Talks between the White House and congressional Democrats have hit several snags, and while the negotiations are continuing, Democrats are refusing to budge on a number of issues.
Democrats have rejected a White House offer to extend the special $600/week unemployment benefit by one week to give lawmakers some breathing room to negotiate a much larger aid package that would include assistance to states and local governments as well as an extension of the moratorium on evictions.
But Democrats have dug in their heels about wanting all or nothing. Republicans are refusing to walk the plank and give their political opponents a $3 trillion aid bill — much of which has nothing to do with pandemic relief.
“As the negotiations continue to progress as a snail’s pace, the administration is considering a number of options that might be available without congressional legislative action,” the official told Fox News.
At this point, it is unclear what item the administration could attempt unilateral action on, but much of the negotiations on Capitol Hill have come to a stalemate with regards to unemployment benefits.
Some of the options being discussed include executive orders for a payroll tax cut and a moratorium on evictions. It’s unclear whether any executive order on taxes would pass constitutional muster, and there would probably be court challenges to any executive action that would extend a moratorium on evictions.
While Trump could issue the orders if Congress is still stalled in negotiations in a week or so, the threat of White House action is more about politics than anything else.
“Those that are counting on enhanced unemployment need to be gravely concerned about the lack of progress,” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told Fox News. “My recommendation would be for them to call their members of Congress and their senators and ask them why they are not willing to compromise when obviously the White House is willing to compromise.”
Meadows added: “There are two things standing in the way to a deal on enhanced unemployment benefits continuing. One is Sen. [Chuck] Schumer and Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and the other is a negotiating tactic that puts people at risk.”
Democrats are confident they have the upper hand as far as public perception of pandemic relief goes. But Republicans feel they can flip the script and make Democrats look like heartless monsters.
Meadows told Fox News that Democrats rejecting the one-week extension of unemployment benefits was “heartless.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin noted that President Trump is “very concerned” about unemployment benefits expiring, adding that he was “surprised” by the Democrats’ refusal.
“They are insistent on having this as part of a larger deal,” Mnuchin said.
In truth, in order to change the narrative at this point, the GOP would need the assistance of the national media. That will not happen and eventually, Republicans will be forced to cave.
The comprehensive bill will almost certainly end up being north of $2 trillion and include massive assistance to state and local governments, a $1200 individual benefit check for almost everyone, and an extension of the unemployment benefit into next year. Republicans might get some form of limited coronavirus liability, but the trial lawyers will be satisfied with the final package.
Thus do the wheels of the American government turn in the early 21st century.