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August 09, 2020

Senator King Challenges President’s Executive Order

King: “the President is attempting to use powers he doesn’t have to push a relief plan that won’t work”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) released the following statement, criticizing the President’s executive orders on unemployment insurance and the payroll tax as a severe overreach of executive power, which will also fail to meaningfully address the challenges facing the American people:

“In the midst of one the most serious economic and health crises in a century, the President is attempting to use powers he doesn’t have to push a relief plan that won’t work.

“If the President’s unconstitutional executive orders are allowed to proceed, they would accelerate the erosion of Congress’s fundamental powers and lead us further down the path to the undermining of the American experiment in self-governance. This maneuver effectively ignores our system of checks and balances – and Congress retaining the power of the purse –and instead is moving us toward an elected monarchy. I wonder if those who cheer this action now will feel the same when a Democratic president wields these kinds of powers based upon this precedent.

“The legality of these orders is far from their only flaw – critically, they just won’t work.

“President Trump’s order, for example, would provide $300 of federal funding for unemployment benefits, cutting the current lifeline of struggling Americans who have been counting on these funds just to keep a roof over their head, food on the table, and their bills paid. The money in this shell game comes from emergency funds already set aside for natural disaster response, so when the next hurricane hits, this cupboard will be bare.

“The order also calls for states to contribute $100 to the enhanced unemployment benefits; these are the same local governments nationwide confronting dire deficits as they face a steep decline in tax revenues from lack of commercial activity. Our states and municipalities desperately need relief, not additional expenses. States will either ignore this baseless order, or hasten their spiral into financial insolvency without federal aid through a real coronavirus relief package. The result will be cuts to essential services and massive layoffs in state and local governments; not exactly helpful heading into a recession.

“And then there’s the suspension of the payroll tax, which, by its very nature, will only benefit people who have jobs – and, by the way, is being funded by taking money away from Medicare and Social Security. Seniors, take note.

“These orders are the latest unserious approach to a deadly serious problem. From the Administration’s ineffective leadership to get the virus under control to Mitch McConnell’s decision to wait to start bipartisan negotiations until the week before these vital benefits were set to expire, these failures of federal leadership are inexcusable, especially at the very moment we need it most.  

“Finally, the President’s low-octane posturing does nothing, nada, zip, to support still-hurting small businesses, help school districts struggling with the added costs of coping with the pandemic, address the looming insolvency of the Postal Service, mitigate the continuing strain on our healthcare system, or improve our woefully ineffective national testing program.

“The House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act on May 15th, which should have opened negotiations but continues to collect dust on the Majority Leader’s desk to this very day. The American people are hurting – let’s cut the games, negotiate in good faith for the people who sent us here, and help them weather this storm. I am urging all parties to go to the table and resume good-faith negotiations to confront this growing emergency. History tells us that half-measures at moments like this only prolong and deepen the crisis; I deeply hope we don’t repeat that tragic mistake.”


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