President Donald Trump waves goodbye after signing four executive orders during a news conference at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
By JONATHAN LEMIRE and ZEKE MILLER Associated Press
BEDMINSTER, N.J. (AP) — Seizing the power of his podium and his pen, President Donald Trump on Saturday bypassed the nation’s lawmakers as he claimed the authority to defer payroll taxes and replace an expired unemployment benefit with a lower amount after negotiations with Congress on a new coronavirus rescue package collapsed.
At his private country club in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump signed executive orders to act where Congress hasn’t. Not only has the pandemic undermined the economy and upended American lives, it has imperiled the president’s November reelection.
Perhaps most crucially, Trump moved to continue paying a supplemental federal unemployment benefit for millions of Americans out of work during the outbreak. However, his order called for up to $400 payments each week, one-third less than the $600 people had been receiving. How many people would receive the benefit and how long it might take to arrive were open questions.
Congress had allowed the higher payments to lapse on Aug. 1, and negotiations to extend them were mired in partisan gridlock, with the White House and Democrats miles apart.
The Democratic congressional leaders Trump criticized and insulted with nicknames in remarks ahead of signing the orders, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, dismissed Trump’s actions as “meager” in the face of economic and health crises facing Americans. Trump’s Democratic opponent in the presidential race, Joe Biden, said the president had issued “a series of half-baked measures” and accused him of putting Social Security at risk.
The executive orders could face legal challenges questioning the president’s authority to spend taxpayer dollars without the express approval of Congress. Trump had largely stayed on the sidelines during the administration’s negotiations with congressional leaders, leaving the talks on his side to chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Trump’s embrace of executive actions to sidestep Congress ran in sharp contrast to his criticism of former President Barack Obama’s use of executive orders on a more limited basis. And the president’s step-back from talks with Congress broke with his self-assured negotiating skills.
Trump, who has not spoken with Pelosi since last year, sought to play the role of election-year savior, with the $400 weekly assistance, as well as a deferral of payroll tax and federal student loan payments and the continuation of a freeze on some evictions during the crisis.
“It’s $400 a week, and we’re doing it without the Democrats,” Trump said, asking states to cover 25% of the cost. Trump is seeking to set aside $44 billion in previously approved disaster aid to help states maintain supplemental pandemic jobless benefits, but Trump said it would be up to states to determine how much, if any of it, to fund, so the benefits could be smaller still.
Many states already faced budget shortfalls due to the coronavirus pandemic and would have difficulty assuming the new obligation. The previous unemployment benefit was fully funded by Washington.
Democrats had said they would lower their spending demands from $3.4 trillion to $2 trillion but said the White House needed to increase its offer. Republicans had proposed a $1 trillion plan.
White House aides watched the talks break down with apprehension, fearful that failure to close a deal could further damage an economic recovery already showing signs of slowing down. Friday’s jobs report, though it beat expectations, was smaller than the past two months, in part because a resurgence of the virus led to states rolling back their reopenings.
The president’s team believes the economy needs to stabilize and show signs of growth for him to have any chance at winning reelection. Aides were hoping to frame the executive orders as a sign that Trump was taking action in a time of crisis. But it also would reinforce the view that the president, who took office declaring he was a dealmaker, was unable to steer the process to an agreement.
Trump said Saturday the orders “will take care of pretty much this entire situation, as we know it.” But they are far smaller in scope than congressional legislation, and even aides acknowledged they didn’t meet all needs.
“This is not a perfect answer — we’ll be the first ones to say that,” Meadows said Friday as talks broke down and executive orders seemed a certainty. “It’s all that we can do and all the president can do within the confines of his executive power.”
Trump said the employee portion of the payroll tax would be deferred from Aug. 1 through the end of the year. The move would not directly aid unemployed workers, who do not pay the tax when they are jobless, and employees would need to repay the federal government eventually without an act of Congress.
In essence, the deferral is an interest-free loan that would have to be repaid. Trump said he’ll try to get lawmakers to extend it, and the timing would line up with a post-election lame-duck session in which Congress will try to pass government funding bills.
“If I win, I may extend and terminate,” Trump said, repeating a longtime goal but remaining silent on how he’d fund the Medicare and Social Security benefits that the 7% tax on employee income covers. Employers also pay 7.65% of their payrolls into the funds.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., issued a statement saying he supported Trump “exploring his options to get unemployment benefits and other relief to the people who need them the most.” Like Trump, McConnell accused Democrats of using the coronavirus package negotiations to pursue other goals.
Democrats said they were not favorably impressed by Trump’s orders. In a joint statement, Pelosi and Schumer said that “these policy announcements provide little real help to families.” They added: “Democrats repeat our call to Republicans to return to the table, meet us halfway and work together to deliver immediate relief to the American people. Lives are being lost, and time is of the essence.”
Playing off Trump’s reputation as a dealmaker, Biden said: “This is no art of the deal. This is not presidential leadership. These orders are not real solutions. They are just another cynical ploy designed to deflect responsibility. Some measures do far more harm than good.”
The Democratic chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, accused Trump of “brazenly circumventing Congress to institute tax policy that destabilizes Social Security.” He also cited a threat to Medicare funding.
With no deal in sight, lawmakers went home on instructions to be ready to return for a vote on an agreement. A stalemate that could stretch well into August and even September was possible, casting doubt on the ability of the Trump administration and Democrats to come together on a fifth COVID-19 response bill.
Often an impasse in Washington is of little consequence for the public — but this would mean more hardship for millions of people who are losing enhanced jobless benefits and cause further damage to the economy.
Schumer said the White House had rejected an offer by Pelosi to curb Democratic demands by about $1 trillion. Schumer urged the White House to “negotiate with Democrats and meet us in the middle. Don’t say it’s your way or no way.”
The breakdown in negotiations over the last several days was particularly distressing for schools trying to reopen . But other priorities were also languishing, including a fresh round of $1,200 direct payments to most people, a cash infusion for the struggling Postal Service and money to help states hold elections in November.
Senate Republicans were split, with roughly half of McConnell’s rank and file opposed to another rescue bill.
Associated Press writer Andrew Taylor in Washington contributed to this report.
While following a slow-moving vehicle like the combine shown above can test a driver’s patience, it’s important to drive carefully when sharing the road with farm equipment.
Abiding by the Iowa State Patrol’s advice of slow down, put your phone down and buckle up is more important than ever as motorists are beginning to share the road with farm equipment this fall.
“We know harvest season is upon us and the advice we would give to both farmers and the motoring public is to make sure you are visible,” said Paul Gardner, an Iowa State Patrol trooper. “Make sure you are driving defensively. Look down the road to see what is ahead of you.”
Farm equipment operators, Gardner said, need to be sure to be equipped with a slow moving vehicle sign if they are traveling 35 mph or less. While traveling at night they need to ensure they have working lights so motorists can see them as they approach the large equipment as well as meeting them on the road.
Remembering to yield at stop at stop signs is also important.
“When you are coming up to an intersection, make sure you are yielding to traffic,” he said. “Stop signs still apply to those who are operating tractors and other farm implements.”
Be sure to share the road.
“Share the road and watch for other vehicles,” said Gardner. “If a large equipment operator can safely do it, they should get over as much as they can. Give people enough room to pass. We encourage you to don’t try to get traffic backed up behind you as much as possible and try to choose the routes that don’t have as much traffic.”
As for the motoring public, Gardner said they also need to be aware of their surroundings while traveling on rural roadways.
“Just know there are going to be tractors and combines out working the fields this fall,” he said.
When approaching a slow moving vehicle, Gardner said it is imperative to give them plenty of room.
“Don’t crowd them. Don’t follow them too closely because if they have to stop all of a sudden, or if you are out passing them and they make a turn in front of you, that is going to be bad for both vehicles involved,” he said. “Obviously, the bigger the tractor, the worse it is going to be for the car.”
No passing zones, Gardner said still apply when passing farm implements.
“Just because they are going slower, it is still illegal to pass on the double yellow lines,” he said. “You may be coming up on a hill and think you can get around them, but you need to be watching out for oncoming traffic.”
By keeping your phone down and your eyes looking ahead that should help noticing a slow moving vehicle in plenty of time to slow down.
“Don’t be distracted. Make sure you are aware of what is ahead of you. You may not see them right away and you may come across a tractor pretty quickly and it may be too late to slow down or too late to stop,” he said.
Studies have shown speeding in the state of Iowa has increased over this last year.
“Speeds that are 21 miles per hour and greater than the speed limit have increased 50 percent this year compared to last year,” he said.
Speeding can make stopping for a slow moving vehicle even more difficult.
“Sometimes on the back roads, you get somebody who has an open road and they don’t see anybody, they put the hammer down and they may not see a slow moving vehicle pull out and it will be too late to slow down,” he said.
Gardner says to just be patient.
“They are going to move slow because obviously they are meant to go slow,” he said. “As soon as it is safe to pass and you can get around them please do so. Be careful. The farmer may be making a turn into a farm drive or another roadway and they may turn right in front of you.”
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg concedes Australia’s labour market is still challenging despite a surprise fall in unemployment. The jobless rate unexpectedly fell to 6.8 per cent in August, bucking widespread predictions of a slight rise. “The labour market is still very challenging,” Mr Frydenberg told Sky News on Friday. “There is a lot of uncertainty out there in the economy – not just here in Australia but globally – and that’s a reflection of the nature of the virus.” Roughly 111,000 people gained employment in August, the third month of exceptionally strong results. Over half the massive jobs losses in April and May have been recovered. However such strength masked a 42,400 drop in employment numbers in Victoria, where restrictions remain. Mr Frydenberg, a Victorian MP, said businesses in the state were still hard hit by lockdowns. “I’m hoping and the prime minister is hoping those restrictions can be eased as quickly as it is COVID-safe to do so,” he said. “Once that happens more business will reopen, more people will get back to work and that will be good news for the overall economy.” Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said while the latest job figures were promising, he expected the next six months to be tough as people wean their businesses off JobKeeper wage subsidies. “So we might be in for a rough ride here,” Mr Willox said. “People do have to start trying to find their way back into the workforce, employers need to start to be able to find ways to employ again.” Trade Minister Simon Birmingham admits the economic recovery won’t be plain sailing. “That’s why our plan for the budget handed down next month is all about jobs,” Senator Birmingham told Nine. “Jobs driven by infrastructure, by skills, by taxes, by making sure that all systems of the economy we make as efficient and as effective as possible to create even more of those jobs.” Senator Birmingham, who is tipped to replace Finance Minister Mathias Cormann when he retires at the end of the year, reaffirmed the government was looking at bringing forward legislated tax cuts. Australian Associated Press
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg concedes Australia’s labour market is still challenging despite a surprise fall in unemployment.
The jobless rate unexpectedly fell to 6.8 per cent in August, bucking widespread predictions of a slight rise.
“The labour market is still very challenging,” Mr Frydenberg told Sky News on Friday.
“There is a lot of uncertainty out there in the economy – not just here in Australia but globally – and that’s a reflection of the nature of the virus.”
Roughly 111,000 people gained employment in August, the third month of exceptionally strong results.
Over half the massive jobs losses in April and May have been recovered.
However such strength masked a 42,400 drop in employment numbers in Victoria, where restrictions remain.
Mr Frydenberg, a Victorian MP, said businesses in the state were still hard hit by lockdowns.
“I’m hoping and the prime minister is hoping those restrictions can be eased as quickly as it is COVID-safe to do so,” he said.
“Once that happens more business will reopen, more people will get back to work and that will be good news for the overall economy.”
Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said while the latest job figures were promising, he expected the next six months to be tough as people wean their businesses off JobKeeper wage subsidies.
“So we might be in for a rough ride here,” Mr Willox said.
“People do have to start trying to find their way back into the workforce, employers need to start to be able to find ways to employ again.”
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham admits the economic recovery won’t be plain sailing.
“That’s why our plan for the budget handed down next month is all about jobs,” Senator Birmingham told Nine.
“Jobs driven by infrastructure, by skills, by taxes, by making sure that all systems of the economy we make as efficient and as effective as possible to create even more of those jobs.”
Senator Birmingham, who is tipped to replace Finance Minister Mathias Cormann when he retires at the end of the year, reaffirmed the government was looking at bringing forward legislated tax cuts.
Alberta’s minister of jobs, economy and innovation has outlined the province’s plan to drive diversification and grow the economy.
Doug Schweitzer announced Thursday morning the province’s investment and growth strategy to help “jump-start Alberta’s economic recovery.”
The $75 million initative is said to build off the province’s strengths including the energy, tourism and agriculture sectors while embracing emerging sectors including technology. financial services, aviation and aerospace.
“Alberta is coming to play in the tech and innovation space,” said Schweitzer in a statement released during the announcement. “We’re putting the rest of Canada on notice that we are going to beat provinces like Ontario and B.C. to the punch by moving policy at the speed of business.
“The first of many policy steps is to develop the best framework for intellectual property so ideas can be turned into businesses and jobs.”
According to the ministry, the government of Alberta will work alongside other levels of government and industry stakeholders as it attempts to “bring high-impact investment to Alberta and to increase investor engagement,” a goal that prompted the creation of the Invest Alberta Corporation this summer.