Donald Trump’s new executive orders faced swift backlash from Democrats — and even some Republicans — as lawmakers said the president was attempting to unconstitutionally bypass Congress after coronavirus relief negotiations stalled on Capitol Hill.
Critics decried the president latest measures, which he announced on Saturday from his golf club in New Jersey after the US Senate hit an impasse on the negotiations for a new coronavirus relief package.
The orders would cut back additional unemployment benefits the government provided during the pandemic to $400 a week and provide a payroll tax holiday for Americans who earn less than $100,000 annually, with Mr Trump saying he would forgive those taxes for millions of Americans if he was reelected in November.
In an interview on Sunday morning with ABC News, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the president’s payroll tax holiday essentially “depletes money out of the social security and Medicare trust funds”, noting how both programmes are funded by taxpayer dollars.
He added: “If you’re a social security recipient or Medicare recipient, you better watch out if President Trump is re-elected.”
The orders were described as “unconstitutional slop” in a statement sent to The Independent from Ben Sasse (R-NE), one of the rare Senate Republicans who has spoken out against the president despite receiving his endorsement.
“The pen-and-phone theory of executive lawmaking is unconstitutional slop,” the statement read. “President Obama did not have the power to unilaterally rewrite immigration law with DACA, and President Trump does not have the power to unilaterally rewrite the payroll tax law.”
Today, Donald Trump stated that if re-elected, he'll undermine the entire financial footing of Social Security.
Our seniors and millions of Americans with disabilities are under enough stress without their hard-earned Social Security benefits in doubt. https://t.co/glUDQlcbEO— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden)August 9, 2020
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she hopes stimulus negotiations will resume: "I have a prayer that I say, let's pray for those who are hungry, let's pray harder for those who will not feed them" #CNNSOTU https://t.co/qtzQ2h1av6 pic.twitter.com/C812DbmKUm— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics)August 9, 2020
The American people desperately need relief. Instead, the president decided to defund Social Security and Medicare.— Rep. Val Demings (@RepValDemings)August 8, 2020
It’s worse than I thought.
Assuming that this executive order is constitutional, which is dubious, the President’s directive on unemployment insurance raids $44 billion from the Disaster Relief Fund to create a new program that underfunded states will have to set up themselves.— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner)August 9, 2020
Par for the course from Chaos Don—orders of questionable legality, putting Medicare and Social Security at risk, generating uncertainty on future tax bills, and putting more fiscal pressure on states. What could be better right now than more confusion? https://t.co/e78rwq06uR— Tim Kaine (@timkaine)August 9, 2020
He added: “Under the Constitution, that power belongs to the American people acting through their members of Congress.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi later echoed the Republican senator, calling the orders “unconstitutional slop” in an interview with Fox News Sunday.
“While he says he's going to do the payroll tax, what he's doing is undermining Social Security and Medicare, so these are illusions," she said, calling the orders “absurdly unconstitutional.”
Republican leadership has refused to hold a vote on the Democrats’ HEROES Act, a $3 trillion stimulus package, and failed to come up with a bill that would pass a vote before previous relief measures expired for millions of Americans last week.
Val Demings (D-Fl), seen as a leading choice to serve as the Democratic Party’s nominee for vice president, issued a damning statement after the president announced his executive orders, writing on Twitter: “The American people desperately need relief. Instead, the president decided to defund Social Security and Medicare.”
Mr Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, blasted Mr Trump’s executive order cutting payroll taxes as “a reckless war on social security”.
“He is laying out his roadmap to cutting Social Security,” Mr Biden said. “Our seniors and millions of Americans with disabilities are under enough stress without Trump putting their hard-earned Social Security benefits in doubt.”