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Trump says he's examining executive orders on stopping evictions

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump said Monday that he's looking at steps he can take with executive orders on issues like stopping evictions, since he claimed Democrats aren't serious about negotiating a new coronavirus relief bill.

"A lot of people are going to be evicted but I'm going to stop it because I'll do it myself if I have to," Trump told reporters at an event at the White House. "I have a lot of powers with respect to executive orders and we're looking at that very seriously right now."

He didn't specify what any of those powers were, though.

Trump's comments came after The Washington Post reported that his administration was eyeing steps it could take unilaterally if no deal is reached on Capitol Hill. It's unclear exactly what those might be, but the discussions are a reflection of officials' increasingly pessimistic outlook for the talks with congressional Democrats.

Pressure is increasing for an outcome since enhanced unemployment benefits expired for some 30 million workers on Friday, and a moratorium on evictions also recently expired.

Trump spoke even as the latest round of negotiations got under way in the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer were meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

The group has met nearly daily for the past week without making much progress, as Democrats are holding out for a wide-ranging $3 trillion bill while Trump administration officials are pushing a short-term fix for unemployment insurance, evictions, and perhaps a few other issues.

Trump was asked why he wasn't taking part in the talks and he tried to insult Pelosi before insisting that he was involved.

"I'm totally involved, I'm totally involved," Trump said, but he accused Democrats of "slow-rolling" the talks and said he might have to act on his own.

In an interview earlier on CNN, Pelosi said it was critical to make a deal.

"It's absolutely essential that we reach agreement," Pelosi said. "The numbers are spiking in terms of the lives and the - life and death, as well as infections, in terms of the virus. So, my view is that if you want to open the economy and the schools, you just have to defeat the virus, and we haven't done that."

It's not clear what steps the administration could take without the help of Congress on issues such as lapsed enhanced unemployment benefits or the expired moratorium on evictions - the two matters Trump has recently identified as his highest priorities in the ongoing talks. Both of those programs were authorized by Congress earlier this year but were designed to be temporary.

Throughout his presidency, Trump has pushed the boundaries on executive power, with steps such as declaring a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border that he said allowed him to redirect Pentagon money to build a wall. His administration also has been aggressive in attempting to "reprogram" money by trying to move it from one account to another without congressional approval.

"Trump once again is trying to make an end run around Congress and act unilaterally in an area that generally requires legislative action," said Mark Rozell, dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. "Executive orders do not exist to replace legislation or the normal give and take between the branches in making law."

The White House's strategy in the negotiations has shifted multiple times in the past few weeks. Democrats passed a $3 trillion package in May that included an extension of the $600 weekly enhanced unemployment benefits, new stimulus checks, aid for states and localities, and various other programs. The White House expressed opposition to that bill but did not begin negotiations with Democrats until recently. It also took the White House much longer than expected to broker a unified Republican proposal with the Senate GOP after blowback on several of the White House's ideas. The GOP bill extended unemployment benefits at a much lower rate.

Despite intense partisanship on Capitol Hill, Congress often manages to act when forced to by a deadline. But lawmakers did not reach a compromise ahead of the expiration of enhanced unemployment benefits for about 30 million workers at the end of July. The partisan divisions and policy disagreements have intensified as the November elections approach, and the bipartisan spirit evident in the negotiations earlier in the year has disappeared.

This is one of the variables guiding the White House's decision to explore unilateral actions. Two people with knowledge of the discussions, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic, said talks were preliminary and no final decisions had been made. The preferred path is still to make a deal with Congress.

Stephen Moore and Phil Kerpen, two outside economic advisers to the White House, published a Wall Street Journal opinion piece on Sunday urging Trump to declare a "national economic emergency" and announce that the Internal Revenue Service would temporarily defer the collection of payroll taxes. The effect would be to cut payroll taxes for workers, something Trump has long sought, although the legality of such a maneuver could come under immediate attack.

It was not clear whether this idea was under serious consideration among administration officials.



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