With Congress at a Stalemate, Trump Eyes Executive Orders on Coronavirus Relief

With Congress at a Stalemate, Trump Eyes Executive Orders on Coronavirus Relief

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Negotiators emerged from about two hours of talks Monday on the next coronavirus relief package calling their discussions productive but sounding like a deal remains a long way away.

“It was productive. We are moving down the track. We still have our differences. We are trying to have clearer understanding of what the needs are,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer similarly said the two sides were making some progress, though many differences remain.

“What we did today, to give you a little flavor of it is we went through the numbers in the proposal that the Senate put forth and the proposal that we had,” Schumer said. “How many children can you feed with this amount of dollars for how long? How many schools can you protect with this amount of dollars so that they can open up when?”

Pelosi and Schumer told reporters that the parties were sticking to their divergent positions on the question of renewing a federal enhancement of unemployment insurance. Democrats have called for a longer-term extension of a $600 federal boost to weekly unemployment payments.

Republicans have proposed reducing the supplemental payments to around $200, but have reportedly also floated shorter-term extensions of the $600 boost.

 Pelosi on Monday told CNN that the $600 level could be tied to unemployment levels. “If the unemployment goes down, then that number can go down, but it doesn’t go down -- you know, you’re not saying to the American people, ‘We have more infections, more deaths, we have more unemployment, we have more hunger, and now we’re going to cut your benefit,’” she said.

Politico reports that Pelosi told fellow House Democrats on a conference call later Monday that the talks may drag on until next week. “It is my hope we could do it this week...but probably not until next week,” Pelosi said.

When asked if a comprehensive deal could wind up topping the $1 trillion mark, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said the two sides are “so far apart right now that’s not even a valid question.”

Trump exploring executive orders: With negotiations so far yielding little progress, President Trump said Monday he’s looking at taking executive action to stop tenant evictions. “A lot of people are going to be evicted but I’m going to stop it because I’ll do it myself if I have to,” Trump told reporters at an event at the White House. “I have a lot of powers with respect to executive orders and we’re looking at that very seriously right now.”

But The Washington Post reports it’s not clear what steps Trump could take to revive an expired moratorium on evictions or a lapsed federal boost to unemployment insurance. Other executive actions reportedly could defer the collection of payroll taxes (see more below) or extend a moratorium on student loan payments.