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Trump’s executive orders raise concerns over presidential power

Democrats and several Republicans have raised concerns over the four executive orders extending COVID-19 economic relief President Trump signed Saturday. While Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer called them “unconstitutional” and ineffective, Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. Lamar Alexander asserted Congressional power to legislate on these issues. POLITICO reporter Caitlin Emma joins.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Good evening and thank you for joining us. The day after President Trump signed four different documents on COVID-19 economic relief, both critics and supporters are trying to figure out what is possible and what is legal. Democratic leaders called the executive actions unconstitutional and said they won't provide necessary relief to Americans.

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer criticized the president's plan to provide$400 in weekly emergency unemployment benefits – $200 less than the benefit that expired one week ago. States would also have to pay 100 of those dollars.

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.:

    This is an unworkable plan. Most states will take months to implement it, because it's brand-new, it's sort of put together with spit and paste. And many states, because they have to chip in $100, and they don't have money, won't do it.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Yesterday, the president said one of the orders would provide a temporary payroll tax cut, which he said could become permanent after the election.

  • President Donald Trump:

    If I'm victorious on November 3rd, I plan to forgive these taxes and make permanent cuts to the payroll tax, I'm going to make them more permanent.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    The executive order Mr. Trump signed defers payroll taxes, but does not cut them, meaning employers and workers could still be responsible for paying them later. Payroll taxes help fund Social Security and Medicare, and today White House Economic Advisor Larry Kudlow tried to clarify what the president meant when he said the cut would be permanent.

  • Larry Kudlow:

    When he referred to permanent, I think what he was saying is that the deferral of the payroll tax to the end of the year will be made permanent. It will be forgiven.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    House speaker Nancy Pelosi said she hopes that the White House will come back to the negotiating table and did not commit to a legal challenge.

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:

    Right now, we want to address the needs of the American people. My constitutional advisers tell me they're absurdly unconstitutional.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    I spoke with POLITICO reporter Caitlin Emma who is covering the president's actions.

    Caitlin, when we saw the president lay out his executive orders yesterday, one of the first questions was what is within his rights and his powers to do versus Congress that approves spending?

  • Caitlin Emma:

    These executive orders, and I think it's worth noting that actually only one of them is an executive order, the rest were memorandums, and in a sense they carry a little bit less weight in that way. But certainly I think we're already seeing some of these, you know, orders, memos kind of in the legal crosshairs. So it's certainly there are definitely a lot of questions, I guess, about the legality of some of the things that he's proposing here.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    In one of the Q&A with reporters, he said we've got plenty of money that we haven't spent yet. How much money are we talking about? And can it fund all of the things that we're trying to get funded?

  • Caitlin Emma:

    No. States have only spent about a quarter of the money that they received through the CARES Act, which was about $150 billion dollars. And that's become a popular Republican talking point in these negotiations and arguing that more state and local aid isn't necessary.

    Look, they all these states have all this money that they haven't spent, but that really varies wildly across states. And a lot of the money that hasn't been spent is already spoken for in that it's been allocated for a specific purpose. So asking governors to pick up any part of the tab for unemployment benefits is going to be a very difficult ask, especially when they say that they're already grappling with inadequate levels of federal aid.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Finally, regardless of what negotiators in Washington agree to or not, what that check level is, when does it actually get to people who right now might really need that $600 to pay rent or pay for food?

  • Caitlin Emma:

    It's really unclear when these supposed payments would go out. It's unclear how many states would be able to pick up the tab for the rest of the $400 a week payment. You know, this is a it's a very uncertain situation at the moment, both in terms of legality and when some of these things would actually take effect to potentially help people.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Caitlin Emma from POLITICO, thanks so much for joining us.

  • Caitlin Emma:

    Thank you.

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