One day after President Donald Trump attempted to solve Congress' impasse over additional coronavirus relief spending by signing a series of executive actions, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer described the directives as “paltry … unworkable, weak and far too narrow” a solution to address the needs of millions of out-of-work Americans.
“The event at the country club is just what Trump does — a big show, but it doesn't do anything,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said on ABC's “This Week” Sunday about the president's Saturday signing ceremony. “If the American people look at these executive orders, they'll see that they don't come close to doing the job.”
The measures signed by Trump on Saturday address some of the priorities within the stalled congressional relief negotiations, such as providing $300 per week to unemployed Americans — with state governments, in some cases, adding an additional $100 — and a potential halt to federal evictions, but are already facing backlash from critics calling into question whether they exceed the president's powers.
“Can the president do this? Is it legal?” ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos asked Schumer on Sunday.
“Well, you know, I'll leave that up to the attorneys. It doesn't do the job … it's not going to go into effect in most places for weeks or months because it's so put together in a crazy way,” Schumer said, arguing that the continuation of expanded unemployment payments would “flow smoothly” had Trump extended the previous $600 weekly rate, as Democrats proposed.
Along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Schumer has served as the Democrats' lead negotiator on the stalled relief package. Democrats, pointing to Republicans' decision to wait months to introduce a Senate counterproposal to the House's successful May legislation and relative disunity once they did, have refused to budge on several of their demands, such as to extend the expanded unemployment benefit.
In a statement Saturday, Schumer and Pelosi continued to advocate for their Republican counterparts to return to negotiations, but given Democrats' relative inflexibility, Stephanopoulos pressed the minority leader Sunday about what a compromise would look like.
“What the Republican just said is that you — your trillion-dollar offer is really just a budget gimmick. You’re shortening the amount of time the money will be spent. You're not cutting any programs,” Stephanopoulos said. “Will you compromise more?”
Schumer pushed back on that characterization and described GOP leaders like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows as being unwilling to meet in the middle.
“In an effort to compromise, Speaker Pelosi told the negotiators from the president's office, we will come down a trillion, you come up a trillion — that would bring us to 2.4, them to 2 and we could meet in the middle and get things done quickly,” he said. “They said ‘absolutely not.' I said to them, ‘this means it's your way or the highway?' And they basically said ‘yes.' That is not the way to create a deal.”
Schumer also condemned Trump's decision to include a payroll tax deferral in the group of actions he signed Saturday. The minority leader claimed the move will leave employees with “a huge bill” when it expires or, if the money is forgiven — as Trump said he may do in a potential second term — result in government benefit programs lacking necessary funding.
“If you're a Social Security recipient or Medicare recipient, you better watch out if President Trump is re-elected,” Schumer said.
Stephanopoulos also pressed Schumer about recent intelligence community warnings that Russia is actively interfering in the presidential election and China has an interest in former Vice President Joe Biden winning in November.
“Does that public statement accurately reflect what's happening right now?” Stephanopoulos asked. “And what, if anything, can be done to counter the interference?”
“Yes, it is absolutely true that Russia is trying to interfere,” the senator responded, citing “public information” and “public statements” and noting that there is bipartisan legislation to impose sanctions on Russia. “Trump is resisting. Why does Donald Trump not want to stop Russia from interfering in this election? You have to ask that question. It’s the wellspring of our democracy.”
Stephanopoulos further pointed to comments made by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., in which he said the underlying intelligence about Russia's actions was so alarming it should be declassified.
“He says every American has a right to know. Do you agree?” asked Stephanopoulos.
“Without compromising sources, yes,” said Schumer, who also took a parting shot at Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., for their actions through the Senate Judiciary and Homeland Security committees — which the pair chair, respectively — to investigate claims relating to Biden, which Democrats charge include Russian disinformation.
“They should be ashamed of themselves for what they’re doing,” he said. “Letting the Russians manipulate them and us, the American people.”
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