Over the weekend, President Donald Trump circumvented Congress, following weeks of unsuccessful negotiations over another coronavirus relief package.
He signed three presidential memoranda and an executive order to provide an extra $400 supplement for the jobless, which includes $300 per week in federal unemployment assistance and another $100 a week kicked in by states. Earlier, jobless workers were able to get a $600 supplement on top of their regular state unemployment benefit.
Trump’s directives also consider temporarily stopping residential evictions, pausing federal student loan payments and deferring payroll taxes until 2021, as way to get more money into employee paychecks. However, it’s not clear if those payroll taxes will have to be paid back, with several lawmakers concerned about how the move could impact Social Security.
Here are comments from some of Florida’s Congressional delegation, with reactions broken down along party lines. Some lawmakers focused on the way Trump handled the situation, and others looked at specific issues, such as the $400 supplement for the unemployed, student loan relief and deferred payroll taxes.
/Rep. Val Demings, who’s under consideration for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s running mate, mocked the president on her Twitter account.
“The ‘deal making’ president couldn’t make a deal, so instead he’s violating the Constitution. Congress has the authority to appropriate funds,” she wrote, adding: “If the president truly wants to help Americans through this crisis, all he has to do is sit down with us. We’ve already passed legislation to do it.”
/U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, of Fort Walton Beach, defended the president in an interview with Fox News that he posted to his Twitter feed. He wrote: “Democrats are crying alligator tears about executive orders and the ‘misuse of the executive branch.’ Democrats had no problem with executive orders when Obama was using them to create amnesty for illegal aliens.”
/Miami Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala was adamantly opposed to a move to defer payroll taxes such as Social Security and Medicare that are withheld from employee paychecks. Saying on Twitter, “The president just promised to defund Social Security and Medicare if reelected. We cannot let this happen.”
Two other Democrats weighed in on the payroll tax issue:
Rep. Kathy Castor of Hillsborough was dismissive, writing: “No one is fooled by exec orders that harm Medicare #SocialSecurity when folks need them most, raid FEMA disaster relief fund during active hurricane season, provide false #UI hope to unemployed.”
And Rep. Ted Deutch, of South Florida, highlighted Trump’s plan for the payroll taxes that undergird Social Security and Medicare.
“Remember these promises Donald Trump made not to mess with Social Security & Medicare? Now he’s vowed to destroy funding for the programs that are the foundation of a secure retirement,” Deutch wrote.
/Vern Buchanan, a Republican representing the southern Tampa Bay Region, also defended the president.
“The president’s action today will help millions of struggling Americans by extending unemployment benefits, providing student loan relief and suspending the payroll tax. Additionally, his decision to extend a federal moratorium on evictions will provide housing security for families during this period of economic uncertainty. I urge (U.S. House) Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi and Senate Leader (Mitch) McConnell to continue working on a broader relief package that also addresses school safety and other important issues related to the pandemic,” Buchanan wrote on Twitter.
/Stephanie Murphy, a Central Florida Democrat, argued on her Twitter feed that no executive order can solve the problem, writing: “Congressional leaders & the administration need to get serious about coming together & reaching a deal that helps American families & businesses struggling in this crisis. Limited & ineffective executive orders won’t cut it. Neither will more partisan bickering. Let’s get it done.”
Darren Soto, another Democrat from Central Florida, excoriated Trump in a tweet.
“Over 160K Americans are dead, millions are sick & 30M are unemployed. Amidst this horrible pandemic & recession, Pres Trump signs an unconstitutional, do-nothing executive order, rather than negotiate a bipartisan relief package. He’s failed to lead again,” Soto wrote.
Neither had U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, although his office webpage touts amendments he’d offered to the proposed Senate bill, including the payroll tax holiday.