He was able to flip the script on Democrats and accuse them of obstructing expanded unemployment benefits rather than explain his own administration’s unwillingness to allow a more generous extension.
But the actual details of what he did — and questions about how many people it would help — left even Republican governors unwilling to sign on right away and created some odd moments Sunday as his economic advisers struggled big time to explain it all.
CNN’s review of the text of the actions identified red tape and strings attached that could slow the unemployment measure. What was billed by Trump as help for renters facing eviction, translated in the executive action as something for his Cabinet to consider.
And while Trump described a payroll tax deferral as a tax cut, the action he signed would simply delay payment for now.
“If you read what he signed, it is not what he says it was,” said CNN’s John King. “You cannot fool people about an unemployment check. They either get it or they don’t.”
And the unemployment benefit extension requires buy-in from cash-strapped states.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” that he’s not yet sure if his state will take the federal money for unemployment. But he thanked Trump for trying to do something.
“The President had a difficult situation,” said DeWine, a Republican. “He’s got a blunt instrument. And that’s the executive order. He’s trying to do something. He’s trying to move the ball forward.”
But DeWine said Congressional negotiations should begin again.
And that idea that Trump’s actions are more negotiating tactic than policy solution was repeated by other Republicans.
“I hope the President’s actions will prompt Democratic leaders to negotiate seriously,” said Sen. Susan Collins, the Maine Republican.
Larry Kudlow, a White House economic adviser, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he didn’t know how many states would take part and that the White House would do a canvas of states on Monday. He was unable to say when the unemployed might see a check featuring the expanded benefits.
And he spent some time explaining the difference between what Trump said about deferring the payroll tax and what the executive action said.
“It’s a deferral. It’s not a tax rate change,” said Kudlow.
Kudlow tried to explain Trump’s logic in saying he could ultimately make the deferral permanent, but without changing the rate.
“When he referred to permanent, I think that what he was saying is that the deferral of the payroll tax to the end of the year will be made permanent. It will not be forgiven. The tax is not going away,” he said.
On NBC, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said the action meant to shield renters from eviction used words like “consider” rather than something stronger because those are the words they were allowed to use.
“Well, that’s how you have to write it. But everybody knows in that bureaucracy that you damn well should do it. And they will. So there’s that,” he said.