Trump Says He May Act to Stop Evictions Amid Virus-Aid Talks
U.S. President Donald Trump exits the South Portico of the White House. (Photographer: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg)

Trump Says He May Act to Stop Evictions Amid Virus-Aid Talks

President Donald Trump said Monday he may take executive action to impose a moratorium on evictions and to enact a payroll tax holiday, with talks on a new virus-relief plan making slow progress in Congress.

The White House is also exploring whether the president can act on his own to extend enhanced unemployment insurance payments that, like an eviction moratorium, were part of stimulus legislation enacted in March but now have expired.

Trump Says He May Act to Stop Evictions Amid Virus-Aid Talks

“They’re not interested in unemployment, they’re not interested in evictions, which is a big deal,” Trump said of Democrats in remarks to reporters at the White House. “People are going to be evicted. But I’m going to stop it, because I’ll do it myself if I have to.”

Later, Trump told reporters that he’s discussing suspending payroll taxes through an executive action.

Trump spoke while Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, met at the Capitol with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.

Both sides said after the two-hour meeting that they made some progress, and would convene again on Tuesday.

“It was productive, we are moving down the track,” Pelosi said, adding that “we still have our differences.”

The two sides are trying to close the gap between the $3.5 trillion Democratic plan passed by the House in May and the $1 trillion package of aid that Senate Republicans introduced last week.

Asked whether Republicans were willing to provide more than the $1 trillion in virus relief they’ve proposed, Meadows said, “We’re so far apart right now that’s not even a valid question.”

The White House and congressional Republicans have been pushing for a temporary extension of the supplemental unemployment aid, but Pelosi and Democrats have been insisting that they won’t agree unless there’s substantive progress toward a deal on broader stimulus legislation.

Mnuchin, who briefed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the talks, said the White House was open to pushing ahead on a “bigger package if we can reach an agreement.”

Schumer said the subject of Trump taking executive action wasn’t brought up. It wasn’t immediately clear how the president would be able to accomplish either stopping evictions or extending unemployment aid without Congress acting, and the president offered no details.

Increasingly Urgent

The negotiations have become increasingly urgent with millions of jobless Americans left without additional aid, and the Senate scheduled to leave for an extended break on Friday. The expired $600-a-week supplemental unemployment aid and moratorium on evictions have become a focus as the coronavirus pandemic continues to surge across the country and economic data shows the economy still staggering.

In the stimulus plan that passed the House in May, Democrats extended the $600 weekly supplemental pay through January. Senate Republicans argue such an amount discourages work, and have presented several proposals to cut it to as little as $200 per week for two months and then cap it at 70% of wages.

McConnell plans to force votes as soon as Tuesday on various Republican plans to extend the unemployment payments. None are likely to pass, as some GOP senators are opposed to any additional stimulus spending and Democrats are unified behind their leadership in pushing for their comprehensive bill.

Read More: U.S. INSIGHT: Over the Cliff –- What End of Benefits Means

Besides the question of aid for the unemployed, roadblocks to a broader agreement include McConnell’s plan to shield employers against lawsuits stemming from Covid-19 infections, and Democrats’ drive to provide $1 trillion in aid to state and local governments.

Although the Senate is scheduled to take its August break after Friday, McConnell could keep the chamber in session past that deadline. The House went on its break, but Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said lawmakers would get called back to vote if there is an agreement.

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