Trump signs 4 executive actions on coronavirus relief
The actions were announced at a press conference Saturday afternoon.
Trump on Saturday signed a memorandum that is supposed to provide $400 a week for additional unemployment insurance benefits -- down from the $600 benefit that expired July 31. An executive order would extend a moratorium on evictions in addition to memoranda that would provide deferments for student loan payments and create a payroll tax holiday for those making less than $100,000 annually.
"Through these four actions, my administration will provide immediate and vital relief to Americans struggling in this difficult time," the president said from the signing at a news conference in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Saturday afternoon.
It remains unclear what legal authority Trump has to enforce the actions.
Trump called the $400 unemployment benefit -- which Democrats had insisted remain at $600 -- "generous." When asked about the decrease being a "hardship" for many he pushed back.
"Well, no, this is not a hardship, this is the money that they need," he said. "This is the money they want. And this gives them a great incentive to go back to work so this is much more than what was originally agreed. The 600 was a number that was there and as you know, there was, there was difficulty with the 600 number because it really was a disincentive."
Asked about the payroll tax holiday, which was opposed by both Democrats and Republicans and doesn't help the unemployed, Trump said "It helps people greatly. It helps our country get back and anybody that would say anything different, I think, is very foolish. Everybody wanted it. By the way, the Democrats want it, the Republicans want it, they just couldn't get it, they just couldn't come to an agreement but everybody wants it. And the very important thing is, the people want it and the people need it, actually."
Trump said he had intervened in the negotiations, in part, because Democrats had padded their bill with provisions that had nothing to do with coronavirus.
He said they were demanding "bailout money" for "states that have been badly managed by Democrats" and that the bill included "measures designed to increase voter fraud" and "stimulus checks for illegal aliens."
Talks on a path forward for a COVID-19 relief bill collapsed Friday, with both parties leaving negotiations citing no measured progress toward an agreement and no plans for a future meeting.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows had been in daily discussion with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Earlier this week, Mnuchin and Meadows set a deadline for an agreement to be reached by Friday.
Pelosi and Schumer criticized the president's decision to sign the executive actions a statement Saturday evening.
"Today's meager announcements by the President show President Trump still does not comprehend the seriousness or the urgency of the health and economic crises facing working families," they wrote. "We're disappointed that instead of putting in the work to solve Americans' problems, the President instead chose to stay on his luxury golf course to announce unworkable, weak and narrow policy announcements to slash the unemployment benefits that millions desperately need and endanger seniors' Social Security and Medicare."
"These policy announcements provide little real help to families," they added. "For instance, not only does the President's announcement not actually extend the eviction moratorium, it provides no assistance to help pay the rent, which will only leave desperate families to watch their debt pile higher. Instead of passing a bill, now President Trump is cutting families' unemployment benefits and pushing states further into budget crises, forcing them to make devastating cuts to life-or-death services."
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a statement following Trump's signing celebrating the president's actions while laying into Democrats.
"Weeks ago, some predicted that Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Schumer might actually prefer if the American people received no further bipartisan aid before the election. Sadly, they have done nothing to suggest otherwise," he wrote. "I am glad that President Trump is proving that while Democrats use laid-off workers as political pawns, Republicans will actually look out for them."
When asked about how quickly the relief would get to Americans, Trump said, "We think it's going to be very rapid. We want it to be very rapid."
Pressed on comments he made Friday that he expected to be sued over his actions, he backtracked, saying, "What I said is, people can do whatever they want. I guess, maybe they'll bring legal actions. Maybe, they won't. But they won't win. They won't win."
He added, "If we get sued, it's going to be someone who doesn't want people to get money. And that's not going to be a very popular thing."
Pelosi and Schumer had criticized the use of executive orders in a press conference on Friday and said they were committed to negotiations.
"When the economy starts losing ground, the only choice is for a strong package, and yet at times yesterday our Republican friends seemed willing to walk away from the negotiating table to do an unworkable, weak and narrow executive orders, which are not going to do the job for the American people," Schumer said.
ABC News' Allison Pecorin and Trish Turner contributed to this report.
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