Congressional Democrats have had plenty of negative things to say about President Donald Trump’s executive orders aimed at helping families and individuals impacted by the coronavirus outbreak and shutdowns, but it doesn’t look like they are rushing to sue the president over his actions as some expected.
Trump and Democrats both predicted he would be sued over the orders, but Democrats appear to be worried about the optics of fighting against initiatives like extending a federal unemployment boost and suspending payroll taxes until the end of the year.
Instead, it seems like they plan to let state officials or private parties file any lawsuits, or just let the plans fail on their own in some cases, The Hill reported.
After exploring exactly what Trump’s orders would do, Democrats now think his two biggest initiatives are unworkable and may unravel without intervention.
Can Trump really do it?
His order to suspend payroll taxes needs to be backed up by a Congressional decision to actually forgive the taxes, or the amount suspended will come due at the end of the year. Employers, facing the possibility that they will have to pay the taxes themselves if they don’t withhold them from their employees’ paychecks, will probably opt for the status quo and keep withholding them as before.
The attempt to extend $400 a week in increased federal unemployment benefits will require states to set up new systems for delivery that could take months in some cases, The Hill said, which defeats the purpose of the order.
One way to circumvent Trump’s orders would be for Congress to overcome its arguing and come up with an agreed-upon coronavirus relief bill that covers the same ground.
The two sides are still far apart on what they think should be in the bill, however.
Trump’s actual motives
It’s possible that Trump decided to sign the executive orders so that Democrats would be in the untenable position of opposing the relief measures. It’s also possible that he meant to goad Congress into doing what he thinks they should do.
It’s a good look for him that he took matters into his own hands, but the goodwill he gets from these orders will ultimately depend on the results. There could be a backlash if his attempts end in failure, which is exactly what Democrats are hoping for.
For Trump’s part, he evidently thinks his orders will hold up in court — at least, that’s what Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“We’ve cleared with the Office of Legal Counsel all these actions,” Mnuchin said. “If the Democrats want to challenge us in court and hold up unemployment benefits to those hard-working Americans that are out of a job because of COVID, they’re going to have a lot of explaining to do.”