Members of Congress seem to be in agreement that they want to give Americans more help dealing with the financial burdens the COVID-19 closures have created, similar to the CARES Act that was enacted in March.
With the Democratic controlled House and Republican-led Senate at loggerheads over the details, the delivery of any assistance anytime soon was in question.
That left the window open for President Trump to ride in on his trusty charter — in this case a pen — and issue more of the executive orders for which he has become known, and both praised and condemned.
The president last week signed a package of orders that he said will help Americans financially while igniting our national economy.
Experts have expressed doubts that the decrees will do either, and are debating whether they actually will go into effect.
One order resumes payments to laidoff workers that had expired this month, but at a reduced rate. The administration touts it as a $400 monthly payment, it actually cuts the originally allocation in half, from $600 to $300, but it asks states to add the other $100 to each payment.
Another order suspends the collection of Social Security payroll taxes from Sept. 1 until the end of the year.
After people questioned how the curtailment would affect the program whose fiscal solvency already has raised alarm, Trump on Sunday asserted that the taxes were only being deferred, not eliminated, and that the immediate lost revenue would be taken out of the general fund — much like he took money from Defense Department projects to fund the border wall.
Like those diversions, analysts question the legality of the actions.
They point to the longaccepted assertion that the “power of the purse” with regard to federal issues lies exclusively with the House of Representatives. Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution states: “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; …” and with regard to those appropriations, Article 1, Section 7 states: “All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.”
Despite the questions about legal authority to issue such orders, many are defending the president’s actions as necessary because of the gridlock at the Capitol. Many of those were among President Barack Obama’s use of executive orders to create the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, for example.
And they’re right on both counts.
Sadly, our legislative chambers have devolved into places where the two primary parties spend more time and energy attacking each other than working together to serve their constituents and address national issues. Simply put, they have abdicated their responsibility to the American people.
It’s something we the people should consider as we plan to go to the polls in November. In addition to the president, all House seats and onethird of the Senate are up for election. It offers voters an opportunity to look for and support candidates who promise to take their jobs seriously and put the needs of our country ahead of the whims of their party.
It’s an opportunity we shouldn’t squander.