Progressive critics and Democratic lawmakers did not need the help of even the Republican U.S. Senator who used the phrase “unconstitutional slop” to describe President Donald Trump’s slate of executive orders—signed Saturday at his private golf club in New Jersey—to rack up ferocious condemnation of the presidential actions as “legally dubious,” shortsighted, wholly inadequate, and final proof that Trump does not understand the scale of the economic devastation his Republican Party is unleashing on the nation with its refusal to join Democrats to pass a far-reaching Covid-19 rescue package.
In response to the four executive orders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said if the president truly “cared about helping Americans, he would have demanded Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell start negotiating as soon as the House passed the HEROES act almost two months ago. These legally dubious actions aren’t real relief for states and families—they’re a cruel joke.”
In a thread on Twitter, Warren explained why each of the orders—put forth by the White House as a payroll tax holiday, a rental protection effort, student loan reprieve for some borrowers, and a federal unemployment boost—are each problematic in their own right, a judgement shared broadly by experts, her fellow Democrats, and progressive observers.
On the payroll tax holiday—which defenders of Medicare and Social Security have warned is a backdoor assault on the key safety net programs—Warren said: “I’ve led the fight in the Senate for years to protect and expand Social Security. I promise you, Mr. President: if you want to gut Social Security and break our promises to seniors, veterans, and Americans with disabilities, you’re going to lose that fight.”
On Trump’s supposed unemployment fix—which critics called an “administrative nightmare” and includes the expectation that state governments, now suffering budget shortages, must kick in a share—Warren suggested the plan is ridiculous compared to what Democrats have been demanding and fighting for all summer long. “Cutting unemployment benefits by $200 and sticking cash-strapped states that desperately need relief with the tab,” Warren argued, “will hurt families, limit our economic recovery, & cost us 1.7 million jobs. Congress must fully extend the $600 checks right now.”
Denouncing the rental protections Trump has put forth—a plan Politico reports “would leave most renters in peril”—Warren argued: “Renters don’t need empty words about protection from eviction and rental assistance —they need guarantees. The President’s Executive Order does nothing meaningful to stop the evictions that are taking place right now. We need a universal eviction ban and rental assistance.”
On the student debt relief—an order that only includes those with federal, not private loans, and only lasts as a deferment of repayment until the end of the year—Warren said the relief is paltry in the face of a complete student loan debt jubilee that progressives, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) have been championing. “Congress should do more—a lot more—for people struggling with student loan debt,” Warren declared. “We need to #CancelStudentDebt for federal and private student loan borrowers to help boost our economy.”
Far from alone in her criticisms, Warren was backed up by economic experts like Robert Greenstein, president of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).
Taken as a whole, Greenstein said the slate of executive orders by Trump “should be should deeply concern all Americans.”
All of the orders—for various but very specific reasons, he said, “fall dramatically short of responding effectively to the enormous need across the country due to Covid-19 and the deep recession. And, by bypassing Congress on major budget and tax decisions and trying to override federal laws on the use of federal funds, they weaken our democracy by shredding longstanding norms of governance and potentially violating the Constitution.”
Other progressive Democrats also weighed in on the various failures of what Trump has put forth:
Slashing unemployment benefits would be a complete disaster for millions struggling to stay afloat.
This is despicable. https://t.co/ngeYgHP1RK
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) August 8, 2020
➡More than 5 MILLION cases
➡More than 162,500 deaths
➡20 weeks in a row with more than 1 million NEW people filing for unemployment
Trump's response? He tries to CUT funds for testing & contact tracing. He tries to CUT unemployment relief.
What a failure. What a disgrace.
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) August 9, 2020
1. Trump’s call for a payroll deferral is propaganda. Companies know the bill will come due so they will bank they money. Payroll firms will make this possible. Most workers won’t get the money. There are not enough jobs for everyone who wants to work because of the virus.
— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) August 8, 2020
In a joint statement released after Trump’s press conference on Saturday, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said the “meager announcements” show the president “still does not comprehend the seriousness or the urgency of the health and economic crises facing working families. 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.”
The Democratic leaders called on their Republican counterparts 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.”