President Trump said Friday night that he’ll take executive action to extend federal unemployment benefits, defer payroll taxes and other steps if congressional Democratic leaders continue to hold coronavirus relief hostage to their “radical left-wing” demands.
Speaking at a hastily arranged press conference at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, the president cited the news that employers added 1.8 million jobs in July and said, “We must ensure that the progress continues.”
As he has for the past week, Mr. Trump said he is ready to take executive action to declare a moratorium on evictions in federally backed housing, suspend student loan payments, extend federal unemployment benefits and defer payroll taxes through the end of the year, retroactive to July 1.
“If Democrats continue to hold this critical relief hostage, I will act under my authority as president to get Americans the relief they need,” Mr. Trump said.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said earlier Friday that they would recommend to Mr. Trump that he take those actions, after another day of talks with congressional Democrats failed to produce a deal. But Mr. Trump suggested that the talks might continue before he takes unilateral action.
“My administration continues to work in good faith to reach an agreement with Democrats in Congress,” he said.
The president said he is ready to defer payroll taxes, which the government imposes on up to 15.3% of wages and self-employment income, split between employees and employers.
He also dangled the possibility that it could be extended into the new year, after the November election.
“I can extend it at a certain period. Hopefully, I will be here to do the job,” Mr. Trump said.
His mention of deferring the taxes suggested that workers and employers would be required to repay the taxes to the IRS at some point, although it wasn’t immediately clear.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Friday that the White House refused to meet them halfway between their demand of $3.4 trillion in coronavirus relief and Senate Republicans’ proposal of roughly $1 trillion. Democrats are seeking more than $900 million in aid for states and cities as part of their request.