Trump’s Unemployment Action Has Been Tried Before — on TV

President Donald Trump isn’t the first to try tapping disaster funding to combat an unemployment crisis. President Frank Underwood attempted it on the Netflix series “House of Cards.”

Trump’s executive action signed on Saturday, to extend federal unemployment benefits using $44 billion of Federal Emergency Management Agency money, follows a strategy that the fictional Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, used to combat joblessness.

In the made-for-TV version, Underwood declared a rapid increase in unemployment a national emergency so he could tap disaster funding to create a nationwide jobs program, “America Works.” Both Trump’s real-life version and the “House of Cards” order were met with bipartisan resistance and were criticized for being possibly illegal.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday that House lawyers are looking at whether the Trump’s move was allowable. Senator Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, said in a statement Saturday that using executive power to circumvent Congress — what he called “the pen-and-phone theory of executive lawmaking” — was “unconstitutional slop.” Democrats haven’t yet said if they’ll file a legal challenge.

How did the fictional version work out? Underwood faced some legal hiccups to implementing “America Works,” but went on to win re-election based on the popularity of the program. He ultimately resigned early into his scandal-riddled second term.

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