House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., lashed out at President Donald Trump over the weekend for unilaterally extending the federal unemployment supplement and providing other relief to Americans struggling because of the pandemic. She called his executive actions “absurdly unconstitutional.” No, they are not. If anything, Trump’s actions were restrained. He could have gone much further — and he still might.

Congressional Democrats thought they had Republicans cornered in the standoff over a new coronavirus relief package. They were so overconfident that they refused to temporarily extend the federal supplement at the existing $600 level while the two sides negotiated — using the suffering of working Americans as leverage. The Democrats likely figured that if Republicans refused to cave to their demands, Americans who lost their unemployment supplement would take out their anger on Trump and the GOP on Election Day.

The Democrats failed to anticipate that Trump could go around them and give the aid to struggling Americans on his own. Now the political tables are turned. Because Trump acted unilaterally, Democrats get no credit for extending the relief. Their refusal to compromise means they got none of their priorities approved. They handed Trump a big political win, allowing him to take decisive action to break the political gridlock. Their only recourse now is to sue Trump to stop him from providing the American people with tax relief, student-loan deferments and enhanced unemployment benefits.

Suing to block the rescue would be politically suicidal, but if Democrats were dumb enough to do it, they would lose — because Trump’s actions are unquestionably lawful. Every action he took was authorized by Congress. To suspend payroll taxes, Trump used tax-deferral authority Congress granted him in the CARES Act, which he had already used to shift the tax date from April 15 to July 15. To suspend student loan payments and interest, Trump used authority Congress granted under the Higher Education Act of 1965 and the Omnibus Budget and Reconciliation Act of 1993 (authority that Joe Biden, as a Democratic senator from Delaware, voted to give the president). To extend the federal unemployment supplement, Trump used authorities Congress gave under the National Emergencies Act and the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 to provide financial aid to disaster victims.

In none of these cases did Trump rely on any presumed constitutional powers. But he could have gone much further by relying on the powers the Supreme Court recently granted him in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California. In that case, the high court blocked his efforts to end President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, which halted the deportation of people brought to the United States as children. Obama claimed that he had the discretion to not enforce the nation’s immigration laws against an entire class of undocumented immigrants — creating an extralegal visa program by executive fiat. The Supreme Court ordered Trump to continue enforcing Obama’s executive action.

As John Yoo — former head of the Justice Department’s office of legal counsel — explains, “What’s good for one president is good for the other president.” If Obama had the discretion to not enforce immigration laws, Trump has the same discretion to not enforce tax laws. Indeed, under the Regents precedent, Trump has virtually unlimited power to stop enforcing any part of the tax code or any economic regulations he dislikes — and it could take years for his successor to undo any changes he makes.

Trump might do just that. On Monday, the president said he is “looking very seriously at a capital-gains tax cut and also at an income-tax cut for middle-income families.” He could do this using the same presumed authority Obama used for DACA, by directing the Internal Revenue Service not to go after those who fail to pay these taxes. Indeed, Yoo tells me Trump is on much stronger ground to do so than Obama was with DACA, because when Obama acted there was no Supreme Court decision. Now, thanks to Regents, Trump can, in effect, rewrite the tax code or the code of federal regulations under the guise of “deferred action.”

Trump’s critics on the right say this would set a dangerous precedent, which a Biden administration could abuse to enact “emergency” measures to combat climate change. But Trump would not be setting a precedent; he would be using the precedent Obama set and the Supreme Court upheld. And if Biden wins, he won’t be bound by Trump’s restraint. He probably won’t even need to take executive action — because Democrats will get rid of the legislative filibuster and ram his agenda through Congress.

Trump’s unilateral action was politically brilliant. If Democrats don’t compromise, he might just be getting started.

2020, Washington Post

(14) comments

freeride

President Trump has played the Democrats like the genius he is....it has been so entertaining to watch them fall on their faces time after time while Trump stands in front of the screen with that big ole smile on his face! He has made the leading Democrats look so foolish and it keeps getting worse...you knew they were at rock bottom when the best they could do was Sleepy Joe and two faced Harris....LMAO! TRUMP2020!

LVW

Trump is neither stable nor a genius, but the House Dems handed him one here.

bishopsboy

Yep, LVW, your team handed President Trump a big win, allowing him to control the narrative so he can legitimately accuse the Democrats of playing politics rather than helping suffering people in need of a little extra cash. The President spanked Pelosi and Schumer sending them home crying like the little b****es they are. It was a good day indeed.

bknjholl

You have a pretty weird definition of winning there, BB. Yes, he won the news cycle. Yes, he won the battle for attention. We’re all talking about the toothless and useless executive orders and memos instead of 1000 Americans dying every day from an out of control pandemic; instead of talking about Republicans adjourning the Senate and going home for a month instead of legislating the help that we all need to cope; instead of talking about the opioid pandemic which is worse than COVID and still hasn't been adequately addressed much less solved; instead of talking about 38,000 deaths by gun violence… and on and on.

Mr. Trump may have won the day, but he’s lost the last 3 ½ years, and Americans have lost their lives, wealth, and jobs because of his feeble attempts at governance. Mr. Trump wins the same way an arsonist wins by staying one step ahead of the firefighters who must put out all the fires. Reporting news is like drinking from that firehose.

bishopsboy

Dearest bkn, I always find it pathetically hypocritical you liberals blame President Trump for the deaths associated with the Chinese virus. Facts tell us the Chinese virus originated in Wuhan China where the CCP willfully allowed it spread across the globe rather than containing the problem within their own borders even though they were fully aware of the dangers. Rather than blaming the President for the American deaths resulting from the Chinese virus, a rational person blames the real culprit -- the CCP. Why else did they ban intra-country travel from the Wuhan region while allowing international travel? The Chinese Communist Party is fully to blame for this tragedy, not President Trump. But you liberals can’t attack the President if you tell the truth (and besides you liberal Democrats are all closet commies anyway and won’t attack your CCP brethren).

However, if we’re going to play by Democrat Party rules and blame the President for all the American deaths, then let’s also for the sake of consistency blame Democrat “leaders” like Gov. Cuomo who implemented asinine policies like requiring nursing homes to take in Chinese virus victims, sentencing tens of thousands of New England elderly to early graves. President Trump provided two hospitals for treating Chinese virus victims in NY that were essentially unused – again another Cuomo failure, not President Trump’s. Regarding the loss of jobs and wealth, it’s the Democrats who refuse to reopen the country, not President Trump.

bkn, you are just another lying, hate-filled CNN parrot, not a man of reason or rational thought.

prodigalson

I agree with you Dant. The Demokkkrats are so filled with venom and hatred toward Trump and his supporters, and frankly, toward anything that is good and decent, that they allow their emotions to overrule commonsense, and show themselves for the vile, wicked individuals that they are time and again.

bknjholl

Guys, I agree with your 2014 selves who famously railed against the President bypassing Congress by attempting to make policy via Executive Order. In this case, it’s by executive memo… insignificant and worthless. Bringing firecrackers to a gunfight this is… all show.

bootsielawson

Thank God we have President Trump, demonkkkrats given head will destroy our country. TRUMP 2020

prodigalson

Trump 2020 indeed Bootsie! Demokkkrats are accustomed to Republicans who bring a knife to a gun fight. Trump brings a bazooka.

bishopsboy

Amen, bootie.

bishopsboy

Sorry..amen, bootsie.

prodigalson

That's okay Bishop. I enjoyed the freudian slip.

bishopsboy

LOL. St. Prodigal, I must have been thinking about my trophy wife when I posted that one.

prodigalson

Well, with a trophy wife as easy on the eyes as yours is, I can certainly understand. Honestly, with her good looks and charm, I'm surprised that you can keep your mind on politics and governmental affairs long enough to craft your brilliant posts, and administer much deserved proverbial spankings to the likes of Driller, LVW, and Diana. Keep up the good work, my Royal Zambian Brother.

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