BEDMINSTER, N.J. (AP) — Bypassing Congress, President Donald Trump on Saturday signed executive orders deferring payroll taxes for some Americans and extending unemployment benefits after negotiations on a new coronavirus rescue package collapsed.
Trump accused Democrats of loading up their rescue bill with priorities unrelated to the coronavirus. “We’ve had it,” he said at a news conference at his country club in Bedminister, New Jersey.
Trump said the payroll tax cut would apply to those earning less than $100,000 a year. He said that if he is re-elected in November, he would look at the possibility of making the payroll tax permanent.
Extra aid for the unemployed will total $400 a week, a cut from the $600 that just expired.
Trump also signed executive orders holding off student loan payments and extending the freeze on evictions.
Trump has largely stayed on the sidelines during the administration’s negotiations with congressional leaders. The talks, which broke down in recent days, were led on his side by chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
Democrats had said they would lower their spending demands from $3.4 trillion to $2 trillion but said the White House needed to increase their offer. Republicans have proposed a $1 trillion plan.
White House aides have watched the talks break down with apprehension, fearful that failure to close a deal could further damage an economic recovery already showing signs of slowing down. Friday’s jobs report, though it beat expectations, was smaller than the past two months, in part because a resurgence of the virus has led to states rolling back their reopenings.
Trump has not specified how the payroll tax deferral would work, and it was unclear whether he had the authority to take such an action without approval from Congress.
The move would not aid unemployed workers, who do not pay the tax when they are jobless, and would face bipartisan opposition in Congress. The cut, long a Trump wish, would affect payroll taxes that are intended to cover Medicare and Social Security benefits and take 7 percent of an employee’s income. Employers also pay 7.65% of their payrolls into the funds.
Both the House and Senate have left Washington, with members sent home on instructions to be ready to return for a vote on an agreement. With no deal in sight, their absence raised the possibility of a prolonged stalemate that stretches well into August and even September.