Trump takes executive action on virus relief, Pelosi calls move ‘absurdly unconstitutional’

Coronavirus

WASHINGTON (CNN/AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday called President Donald Trump’s executive actions on coronavirus relief “absurdly unconstitutional.”

“Well, the fact is, is that whether they’re legal or not takes time to figure out. I associate my remarks with what the Senator (Ben) Sasse who says, they’re ‘unconstitutional slop.’ Right now we want to address the needs of the American people,” she told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” when asked if she would sue to block them. “As my constitutional advisers tell me, they’re absurdly unconstitutional.”

On Saturday, Trump bypassed Congress and asserted his executive powers by signing four actions on coronavirus relief after Democrats and the White House were unable to reach an agreement on a stimulus bill.

Trump moved to continue paying a supplemental federal unemployment benefit for millions of Americans out of work during the outbreak. However, his order called for up to $400 payments each week, one-third less than the $600 people had been receiving. How many people would receive the benefit and how long it might take to arrive were open questions.

The previous unemployment benefit, which expired on Aug. 1, was fully funded by Washington, but Trump is asking states to now cover 25%. He is seeking to set aside $44 billion in previously approved disaster aid to help states but said it would be up to states to determine how much, if any of it, to fund, so the benefits could be smaller still.

The other three actions he signed include a memorandum on a payroll tax holiday for Americans earning about $100,000 a year or less, an executive order on “assistance to renters and homeowners” and a memorandum on deferring student loan payments.

Trump said the employee portion of the payroll tax would be deferred from Aug. 1 through the end of the year. The move would not directly aid unemployed workers, who do not pay the tax when they are jobless, and employees would need to repay the federal government eventually without an act of Congress.

The evictions executive order directs the Treasury and Housing and Urban Development departments to identify funds to provide financial assistance to those struggling to pay their monthly rent.

The president cast his actions as necessary given that lawmakers have been unable to reach an agreement to plunge more money into the stumbling economy, which has imperiled his November reelection.

The orders “will take care of pretty much this entire situation, as we know it,” Trump said, despite the fact that they are far smaller in scope than congressional legislation, and even aides acknowledged they didn’t meet all needs.

Trump hopes the four executive orders he signed will signal to Americans that he is acting where Congress will not address economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has upended nearly all aspects of American life. It’s unclear what the economic impact of his actions will be, and his orders do not address several areas that have been part of the congressional negotiations, including funding for schools and state and local governments.

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