President Donald Trump on Saturday signed executive actions extending financial relief to Americans hit by the coronavirus pandemic as polls showed a large majority of voters unhappy with his handling of the crisis.
The four measures marked a presidential show of strength after Trump’s Republican party and White House team failed to agree with opposition Democrats in Congress on a new stimulus package aimed at stopping vulnerable Americans from falling through the cracks.
“We’ve had it and we’re going to save American jobs and provide relief to the American workers,” Trump said at a press conference at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he was spending the weekend.
With double digit unemployment, disruption to businesses from social distancing rules, and persistent coronavirus spread, many Americans had been relying on relief measures approved earlier by Congress, but which mostly expired in July.
Trump said his decision to circumvent Congress with executive actions would mean relief money getting “rapidly distributed.”
File photo: US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with the Governors of Colorado and North Dakota on May 13, 2020, in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP).
In reality, his measures are likely to face court challenges because Congress controls federal spending, and in any case they may add up to less money than initially appears.
For Trump, lagging badly in the polls against his Democratic rival Joe Biden ahead of the November 3 presidential election, the orders were partly about showing he is in charge.
He turned the signing ceremony in the ballroom of the golf club into an assault on his opponents and threw in several false claims about his accomplishments in office.
To cheers from club members invited to watch the event, Trump insulted the Democratic “crazy” leader of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, denounced Biden as “far left,” and claimed that Democrats want to “steal the election.”
Biden called Trump’s orders Saturday “a series of half-baked measures.”
“They are just another cynical ploy designed to deflect responsibility,” Biden said, adding that Americans need a “real leader” who would work to hammer out a deal with lawmakers.