Official White House Photo by Keegan BarberBY: JACK ARNHOLZ, ABC NEWS
(WAHINGTON) — White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow defended President Donald Trump’s executive actions on coronavirus relief Sunday, saying the administration had to take measures after Democrats “rejected various compromises.”
“(The action) provides significant economic assistance,” he told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” in an interview following Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who called the orders — signed by the president on Saturday — “unworkable, weak and far too narrow.”
“There’s still a lot of hardship out there, there’s a lot of heartbreak out there, and the point that President Trump made yesterday is that — on several occasions — we tried to get for example, a compromise deal on the unemployment assistance,” Kudlow said.
“Because the Democrats rejected various compromises, at least twice to my knowledge, the president felt he had to take action and it will be timely action, and it will be temporary action … let’s help those who still need help,” he added.
Despite the executive action, Kudlow did not rule out returning to the negotiating table with congressional Democrats.
“We’ve not said no to that,” he said.
Trump signed four executive actions on Saturday, extending some coronavirus relief measures following stalled bipartisan negotiations in Congress.
The measures included providing $300 per week to unemployed Americans — with state governments, in some cases, adding an additional $100. The figure is down from the $600 benefit that expired July 31. Trump also signed an order to extend a moratorium on eviction, a memorandum that would provide deferments for student loan payments and another to create a payroll tax holiday for those making less than $100,000 annually.
While Kudlow claimed Trump’s order will keep evictions halted, Stephanopoulos noted that the measure would not — it only directs the administration to find a way to help people and identify federal funds.
Trump’s top economic adviser disagreed with the characterization, saying it was “not entirely true.”
However, Stephanopoulos, reading directly from the executive action, told Kudlow, “It says ‘such action may include encouraging and providing assistance to public housing authorities or affordable housing owners, landlords and recipients of federal grant funds in minimizing evictions and foreclosures.’ It doesn’t talk about extending the moratorium.”
“(The administration is) working through other agencies to spend some money for, for example, rental assistance and federally backed housing,” Kudlow said.
“So, it just says there’s going to be a review. I can tell you, George, the intent of that is that the review will prevent any evictions,” he added.
While Trump also pledged to turn the payroll tax deferral into a permanent cut if he wins reelection, no president has the authority to get rid of payroll taxes without involving Congress.
“Maybe we’re going to go to court,” Kudlow told Stephanopoulos. “We’re going to go ahead with our actions anyway. Our counsel’s office, the Treasury Department believes it has the authority to temporarily suspend tax collections.”
The payroll tax deferment has faced criticism from some Republicans questioning its legality, with Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., calling the executive actions “unconstitutional slop.”
Earlier on “This Week,” Schumer had criticized the deferment, telling Stephanopoulos a permanent cut to the payroll tax would take money out of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds.
“If you’re a Social Security recipient or Medicare recipient, you better watch out if President Trump is re-elected,” Schumer said.
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