By The Associated Press
President Donald Trump on Saturday bypassed gridlocked lawmakers as he signed an executive order to defer payroll taxes and replace an expired $600 unemployment benefit with a $400 one.
Congress allowed the $600 payments to lapse on Aug. 1, and negotiations to extend them have reached a standstill.
“It’s $400 a week, and we’re doing it without the Democrats,” Trump said, asking states to cover 25 percent of the cost.
Critics are questioning whether the president has the power to authorize such payments, according to the New York Post.
When asked by a reporter about possible litigation, Trump said, “This will go very rapidly through the courts. If we get sued, it’s somebody that doesn’t want people to get money, and that’s not a very popular thing.”
Trump is seeking to set aside $44 billion in previously approved disaster aid to help states maintain supplemental jobless benefits, but he said it would be up to states to determine how much of it to fund.
Trump also deferred federal student loan payments and continued a freeze on some evictions.
The president said 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 its offer. Republicans have proposed a $1 trillion plan.
Trump said Saturday that the orders “will take care of pretty much this entire situation, as we know it.”
Trump said the employee portion of the payroll tax would be deferred from Aug. 1 through the end of the year. Employees will need to repay the federal government eventually without an act of Congress.
In essence, the deferral is an interest-free loan. Trump said he’ll try to get lawmakers to extend it.
“If I win, I may extend and terminate,” Trump said.
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