Washington August,9 (dpa) - US President Donald Trump signed four executive orders on the economy on Saturday, following through on a threat to act on his own if Congress did not pass a new stimulus bill.
One order provides enhanced unemployment benefits while a second would give relief on student loan repayments. A third order is a federal ban on housing evictions. The fourth suspends certain taxes on salaries.
The real effect of the orders, which Trump signed at this golf course in New Jersey, remains to be seen, as the White House is limited in what it can do without Congress, which holds the purse strings.
Top Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer slammed Trump's announcement, calling the measures "unworkable, weak and narrow."
"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," they said in a joint statement.
"The only solution to crush the virus and protect working families is to pass a comprehensive bill that is equal to the historic health and economic catastrophe facing our country," the Democrats said as they called on Republicans to "return to the table, meet us halfway."
Legal contests are likely, with Trump banking that challenges to his order would face a public backlash, as he seemed to crave a public relations battle three months before the US presidential election.
Enhanced unemployment benefits, worth 600 dollars weekly, expired last month and a moratorium on housing evictions also ended. Both were part of nearly 3 trillion dollars in stimulus Congress passed earlier this year.
Trump's order is for 400 dollars a week, and taps into emergency disaster funds, which potentially could drain those pots for when they are needed. It is unclear if workers really will receive the tax break.
The Democrats are seeking to "hold this vital assistance hostage," Trump said, adding that he still hoped for a deal in Congress "at a later date."
On Friday, last ditch talks between the Republican White House and Democratic lawmakers broke down. Key sticking points were the size of unemployment insurance and a Democratic demand for federal aid to states.
Democrats want a wide-ranging bill worth some 3 trillion dollars, arguing their rivals are seeking to cut costs during the pandemic, prolonging the crisis.
Republicans proposed a pared-down 1-trillion-dollar bill, warning on deficits and accusing the Democrats of padding the bill with pet liberal projects unrelated to the virus.
"I honestly don't believe they love our country," Trump said about the Democrats. His speech was rife with political attacks on his rivals, including several barbs directed at Joe Biden, the Democrat who will likely run against the incumbent in November.
The pace of the jobs recovery in the country has slowed amid spikes of new coronavirus cases across a number of states, causing pauses and even rollbacks to economic reopenings.
The US is approaching some 5 million cases since the pandemic broke out, and 160,000 deaths, the most of any nation, and some 20 per cent of all reported mortalities globally.