White House chief of staff floats executive action on unemployment and evictions if Congress can’t strike deal

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Wednesday that President Donald Trump is prepared to take executive action on eviction protection and extending enhanced unemployment benefits if Congress isn’t close to a coronavirus recovery package by Friday.

Speaking to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room,” Meadows explained, “What I am saying is by Friday, if we haven’t made significant progress and we are just too far apart, the President is prepared to take executive action on those, the two items you are talking about. Making sure eviction protection is done, he will do that through executive action. Making sure enhanced unemployment payments — that stopped because Democrats refused to say ‘yes’ just a few days ago.”

“He will do executive actions and take executive actions to actually address those two areas to make sure that at least what he can do is take action because Congress won’t,” he continued.

It’s unclear what those executive actions would look like or what power Trump has to extend either of the provisions, which were passed by Congress as a part of the CARES Act earlier this year.

His comments come as top Democratic and White House negotiators continue to trade proposals over a stimulus package.

The extension of the federal eviction moratorium is extremely important for both sides. The federal eviction moratorium that protects more than 12 million renters living in federally subsidized apartments or units with federally backed mortgages expired July 25. If it’s not extended, landlords can initiate eviction proceedings in 30 days.

But Democrats want more than just an extension — they want actual assistance for renters included in the proposal.

And negotiators remain similarly far apart on unemployment insurance. The White House has offered the federal unemployment enhancement at a flat rate of $400-per-week, down from the now lapsed level of $600 per week, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told PBS Newshour Tuesday night “there’s no in between,” sticking firmly to the $600 level.

Meadows’ promise of an executive action, however, is unlikely to leverage concessions from Democrats who don’t believe the President has the authority — and if he tries, it won’t be to the scale necessary to address the scope of the actual problems.

Pressed on Trump’s ability to take executive action Wednesday, Meadows said the White House is “looking very closely at that with legal counsel and getting opinions on that.”

“Because of some of the flexibility we have from the previous CARES Act as well as the executive privilege that the President enjoys broadly, we believe that we can address those two things,” Meadows said. “He will address those two things. So the good news for your viewers is if Congress can’t get it done, the President of the United States will.”