President Donald Trump previously floated the idea of $1,200 to $3,400 second COVID-19 stimulus checks for qualifying Americans, with the latter number being for a family of four. However, now that Congressional Democrats and Republicans have failed to come to agreement on the second stimulus relief plan before the end of summer session, will Trump approve checks by executive order?
Trump has indicated that the answer is no. As word spread that the impasse remained in Congress, the president’s team and the president himself made it clear he wants to use executive orders to get some of the relief plan done on his own. However, Trump specifically did not mention stimulus checks when discussing those executive orders, which he signed on August 8, other than to criticize Democrats in Congress for, in his opinion, blocking them.
That doesn’t mean that Congress won’t somehow find a way to get stimulus checks in the hands of Americans again (although negotiations seem to have ended badly and broken down), but it doesn’t seem to be on the executive order table right now. According to Newsweek, that’s because there’s a limit to presidential executive order authority, and additional stimulus checks likely require legislative action. The major stumbling block to using an executive order to approve stimulus checks: “The constitution puts control of federal spending in the hands of Congress, not the president,” according to Al-Jazeera. Trump used money in the Pentagon budget to fund part of his national emergency approved border wall to get around this funding question, the site reports.
The executive orders that Trump announced that he had signed on August 8 include an additional $400 per week in extra unemployment benefits.
Trump also said he’s suspending some student loan payments through the end of the year, is protecting renters from eviction, and will defer payroll taxes on Americans earning less than $100,000, also through the end of 2020. “We’ve had it,” he said in the press conference, in which he criticized Democratic leaders in Congress. “We’re going to save American jobs and provide relief to the American worker.” However, that doesn’t include the checks. Trump did reference them, saying he was willing to immediately sign legislation if Congress approves it “providing additional relief payment to families.” However, Congress has not signed such legislation.
Upon departing the Oval Office for Ohio, I’ve notified my staff to continue working on an Executive Order with respect to Payroll Tax Cut, Eviction Protections, Unemployment Extensions, and Student Loan Repayment Options.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2020
There are also questions about whether the president can use executive orders to do some of the other things he’s telegraphed doing to provide Americans with stimulus relief.
Republicans and Democrats had generally agreed that Americans should get another stimulus check in the same amount as last time (with more adult dependents qualifying for a payment). The problem is that proposal is in the broader relief plan that contains other things they don’t agree on (like the overall fiscal cost of the package and how much extra pandemic-fueled unemployment benefits should be.)
In a July 31 tweet, Trump wrote, “The Democrats are holding back the $1,200 to $3,400 (family of four) checks that were ready to be sent out!”
Here’s what you need to know:
Trump Listed a Lot of Things He Plans to Get Done in the Next Few Days But Stimulus Checks Weren’t One of Them
Trump, in a press conference on August 7, ticked off a list of things he’s planning to get done on his own.
“My administration continues to work in good faith to reach an agreement with Democrats in Congress to extend unemployment benefits, provide protections against evictions…tragically Nancy Pelosi and chuck Schumer continue to exist with radical leftwing policies that have nothing to do with the China virus,” said Trump.
Where’s my second stimulus check.? pic.twitter.com/mL253YR8et
— A.T.M. (@celab3000) August 8, 2020
If the Democrats don’t agree to a compromise, said Trump, “I will act under my authority as president to get Americans the relief” they need. He then said he will be “deferring the payroll tax for a period of months to the end of the year, retroactive to July 1.” He said he also plans to “enhance unemployment benefits through the end of the year” and “defer student loan payments and forgive interest until further notice” as well as “extend the eviction moratorium.”
Trump did not mention a second round of stimulus checks in the comments.
According to Constitution Daily, “An executive order is a directive from the President that has much of the same power as a federal law.” According to the American Bar Association, “Executive orders are not legislation; they require no approval from Congress, and Congress cannot simply overturn them. Congress may pass legislation that might make it difficult, or even impossible, to carry out the order, such as removing funding. Only a sitting U.S. President may overturn an existing executive order by issuing another executive order to that effect.”
Other Members of Trump’s Team Are Pushing for Executive Orders
According to Forbes, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows have said “they will officially recommend that President Trump sign executive orders on unemployment insurance, evictions, and student loans.”
The list, again, did not include stimulus checks.
“The chief and I will recommend to the president based upon our lack of activity today to move forward with some executive orders,” Mnuchin said, according to Forbes.
“We’re going to take executive orders to try to alleviate some of the pain that people are experiencing,” said Meadows, according to CNN. “This is not a perfect answer. We’ll be the first ones to say that, but it is all that we can do and all the President can do within the confines of his executive power and we’re going to encourage him to do it.”
CNN reported that Democrats plan to challenge Trump executive orders in court.