Trump opens new front in stimulus battle

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 11th of August, 2020. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up: the political battle over economic relief.

Over the weekend, President Trump bypassed Congress to approve several economic measures using executive orders. That after members of Congress arrived at a stalemate over the details of a legislative rescue package.

REICHARD: Joining us now to talk about what could be next is Harvest Prude. She’s WORLD’s reporter in Washington, D.C. Good morning Harvest!

HARVEST PRUDE, REPORTER: Good morning, Mary!

REICHARD: The president’s executive orders extended extra unemployment benefits and deferred payroll taxes. That was in lieu of a direct stimulus payment. He also approved measures to protect renters from eviction and put student loan payments on hold. Those were all issues important to Democrats. But they’re not at all happy with the executive orders. What is their position on this?

PRUDE: Democrats bet that the Republicans would succumb to the political and economic pressures of the moment and strike a big deal. Instead, talks went nowhere. Then, the president undercut some of Democrats’ bargaining power by taking unilateral action. 

So now, their message is, one, that his actions don’t go far enough to help Americans. They point out that his move on unemployment benefits asks states to carry 25 percent of the cost, something they say not all states can manage. And two, they argue that this move is unconstitutional; because the power to appropriate and direct federal funds belongs to Congress.

REICHARD: It seems like challenging this in court could be tricky, politically speaking. Trying to block the aid when there’s no legislative alternative could open Democrats to claims they’re penalizing people who need help just because they want to get back at the president. What are you hearing about any legal challenges?

PRUDE: Dems have been tight-lipped about whether they will actually take the Trump administration to court. On Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sidestepped a question about this on CNN. 

You’re correct that tying this up in court would be a bad look for Democrats, especially as the pandemic continues. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said as much on Fox News Sunday:

MNUCHIN: If the Democrats want to challenge us in court and hold up unemployment benefits to those hard working Americans that are out of a job because of COVID, they’re gonna have a lot of explaining to do.

REICHARD: Now that the president has signed these orders, does it seem even less likely that lawmakers will try to pass some form of stimulus legislation?

PRUDE: I don’t know that the order undercuts the need for a deal, from the perspective of most lawmakers. For Dems, it actually might heighten the urgency because they don’t want to be seen doing nothing. But what it will probably do is push back the timeline. We’re not really sure whether lawmakers will really get something done before the August recess ends. 

Right now, many lawmakers are back in their districts. So there’s the possibility they’ll wait and take another crack at it in September. There’s certainly issues, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, that lawmakers still say need to be addressed in a comprehensive economic rescue package.

REICHARD: What are political analysts saying about this? Will this help or hurt the president, from a political perspective?

PRUDE: Analysts are always going to be mixed when it comes to President Trump’s actions and the reaction has been divided. But it’s unlikely that Americans who lost their job and were relying on those extra unemployment benefits will be upset by the president’s order. It also made Wall Street happy; stocks jumped at the news. But many people worry about fiscal discipline or how future use of executive orders thwart the legislative process.

REICHARD: Harvest Prude is WORLD’s Washington reporter. You can read her coverage of Capitol Hill in The Stew, a weekly email put out by WORLD Digital. Sign up at! Harvest, thanks for joining us today!

PRUDE: You’re welcome, Mary.

(Associated Press/Photo by Carolyn Kaster) Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (center) and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows (left) walk to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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