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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi slammed the executive action President Trump took this weekend to provide assistance for Americans struggling amid the coronavirus as weak and an “illusion” on “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace, as she defended Democrats’ stance asking for trillions more in aid as negotiations with the White House and Senate Republicans have stalled.
“No, in fact, what the president did is — I agreed what the Republican senator said — is unconstitutional slop,” Pelosi, D-Calif, said, alluding to a statement Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., put out against Trump’s executive actions.
She added: “While it has the illusion of saying we’re going to have a moratorium on evictions, it says I’m gonna ask the folks in charge to study if that’s feasible. While he says he’s going to do the payroll tax, what he’s doing is undermining Social Security and Medicare, so these are illusions.”
Pelosi also contrasted lines in the Democrats’ bill and the Republicans’ bill, noting that Democrats are proposing more assistance for food-insecure children and evictions.
Pelosi is leading negotiations over the legislation with the White House and Republicans, along with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. As talks have ground to a halt, Trump announced a series of executive actions on Saturday to bridge the gap until a bill reaches his desk. Among them were a renewal of boosted unemployment benefits that were scaled back to $400-per-week instead of $600-per-week, a 120-day eviction moratorium, a payroll tax holiday until the end of the year and an extension of student loan relief.
“Today’s meager announcements by the president show President Trump still does not comprehend the seriousness or the urgency of the health and economic crises facing working families,” Pelosi said in a joint statement with Schumer on Saturday. “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.”
Talks had been stuck for weeks, with Democrats demanding more than $3 trillion in the relief bill while Republicans struggled to eventually coalesce around a $1 trillion proposal. Pelosi on Thursday proposed the parties each give $1 trillion and pass a $2 trillion proposal, but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Friday the idea was a “non-starter.”
Trump’s payroll tax holiday was opposed by so many Republicans that it was not included in the first proposal by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., which fell flat due to uniform opposition by Democrats and reluctant support even within his own caucus. Republicans’ concerns on the payroll tax holiday are related to concerns that it will drive up the national debt hundreds of billions of dollars — but Trump’s payroll tax holiday would require Americans to pay back the government once the holiday ends at the end of the year, essentially making it a no-interest loan.
The $400-per-week unemployment boost, which is down from the $600 benefits which expired at the end of July, meet a Republican priority to cut that assistance, which had many Americans making more by not working than they could by working. GOP legislators were concerned that would stunt the economy’s recovery, while Democrats stumped hard to preserve the boosted benefits at their $600 level.
This is a developing story, check back for updates.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram and Fox Business’ Megan Henney contributed to this report.