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Talks break down, Trump vows to suspend payroll taxes


Talks break down, Trump vows to suspend payroll taxes

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Washington/Bedminster – United States President Donald Trump vowed to unilaterally suspend payroll taxes and extend expired coronavirus (COVID-19) unemployment benefits after negotiations with congressional Democrats on a broad pandemic aid package collapsed on Friday.

Trump told a news conference at his golf club in New Jersey that he will sign an executive order implementing these measures, suspending student loan repayments and rental housing evictions in coming days if no deal is reached.

He said the payroll tax suspension – a move he has long called for but shunned by both parties in Congress – would be retroactive to July 1 and extend through the end of 2020, with a possible extension into next year if he is re-elected.

Trump said the order could be signed by the end of the week, without specifying whether he meant this week or next week. He added that he expected it to be challenged in court.

“If Democrats continue to hold this critical relief hostage, I will act under my authority as president to get Americans the relief they need,” Trump said at the briefing, which took on the look of a campaign event.

No progress

Earlier on Friday in Washington, Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said there was no progress in negotiations at the Capitol with the two top Democrats in Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.

The global pandemic has taken a particularly heavy toll on the United States, where it has killed more than 160 000 people and thrown tens of millions out of work. Trump initially played down the disease’s threat and has drawn criticism for inconsistent messages on public health steps such as social distancing and masks.

Friday’s talks appeared to mark the end of nearly two weeks of almost daily closed-door negotiations between the four leaders, who have sought to hammer out an agreement on legislation to resume COVID-19 relief programmes that expired at the end of July.

Democrats said they offered to reduce a proposed US$3.4 trillion coronavirus aid package, which the House passed in May but the Senate ignored, by nearly one-third if Republicans would agree to more than double their US$1 trillion counter-offer.

Trump’s negotiators turned them down.

“It was a disappointing meeting,” Schumer told reporters.

Both sides said they remained open to further negotiations. (Reuters)