President Donald Trump said that he is looking into executive action to extend enhanced unemployment benefits, protections against evictions and a temporary suspension of payroll tax collection.
What is unclear is whether the president has the authority to do so. What is clear is that Trump and the White House are using the prospect of a unilateral action to pressure Democrats to make concessions as leaders negotiate on Capitol Hill over another coronavirus relief package.
On Wednesday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told CNN that, if no significant progress is reached buy the end of the week and “we are just too far apart, the president is prepared to take executive action.”
Meadows said that they are still getting legal opinions on the president’s authority, but believe that the previous relief legislation, the CARES Act, passed in March, gave Trump some flexibility to do so.
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But the level of the unemployment benefit is among the sticking points as Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin meet daily with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. The $600-per-week in enhanced benefits expired last week, and while Democrats want them extended through the end of January, the White House and Republicans have balked at the amount. Senate Republicans introduced a bill that cuts the benefit to an extra $200-per-week, as states phase in a formula to replace 70% of workers’ lost wages.
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