But there was some acknowledgment that the measures could face legal challenges and were not as potent as congressional action.
A number of critical provisions are also left unaddressed without a broader deal, including a lapsed federal program for small businesses, another round of stimulus checks, aid to schools confronting the beginning of the academic year and funds for state and local governments reeling from the toll of the pandemic.
“The downside of executive orders is you can’t address some of the small business incidents that are there,” Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, said in a pretaped interview that aired Sunday on Gray Television. “You can’t necessarily get direct payments, because it has to do with appropriations. That’s something that the president doesn’t have the ability to do.”
The White House lawyers had been crafting the executive actions over the past two weeks. By Friday, after the talks remained at a stalemate, it became clear that they would need to move forward with the plan. Mr. Trump was eager to sign the payroll tax order on Friday evening, according to a senior administration official, but after his legal team said it was not yet ready, he opted to do so on Saturday at his Bedminster golf club.
Officials in recent days had been debating which measures to employ, with Mr. Mnuchin resistant to the payroll tax suspension and Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, arguing in support of it, according to a senior administration official. Although White House officials believe the executive actions have given Mr. Trump the upper hand, his advisers continue to say that more support for schools and another round of stimulus checks are needed to keep the economic recovery on track.
Among the most complicated measures is the president’s intention to revive lapsed weekly federal unemployment payments of $600 through the repurposing of other federal funds, including from a pot of disaster relief aid, to create a $400-a-week bonus payment. That payment, however, is contingent on states providing $100 per week and establishing an entirely new program — called a “lost wages assistance program” — to distribute the aid.
But states are also facing plunging revenues because of the pandemic. They have already struggled to allocate the original $600 payment because of overwhelmed and often antiquated systems, and some experts warn that the revised benefit could last for only five weeks.