This past weekend, President Donald Trump signed an executive order and released several memos to provide economic relief to American households still reeling from the effects of the novel coronavirus.

Executive action is a tool in the president’s toolbox, but it should not be the primary means of enacting policy. Whether President Trump is responding to COVID-19 or former President Barack Obama addressing children brought to the U.S. illegally by adults, we should not forget that it’s the responsibility of Congress to enact lasting reforms.

As has been reported, the President:

  • Temporarily suspended payroll tax collection for workers earning less than $100,000 annually through the end of 2020.
  • Continued an expired extra unemployment benefit for Americans who lost their job due to COVID-19. Instead of the $600 benefit unemployed workers previously received on top of states benefits, they would receive $400 a week.
  • Directed his Administration to temporarily prohibit residential evictions and foreclosures and prioritize federal funds to provide financial assistance to struggling renters and homeowners.
  • Provide additional student loan relief.

The coronavirus has pushed our nation into extraordinary times. Staggering unemployment has forced tremendous hardship on many American families. As the latest jobs report indicates, American workers are getting back to work, but we are nowhere near the full-employment levels that we enjoyed just before the pandemic hit.

President Trump, understandably, wants to help Americans through this crisis. They are looking to him and Congress for direction and aid. Any additional stimulus aid should be targeted, temporary and flexible. We don’t need a new entitlement nor more our-of-control spending coming out of this pandemic.

At this point, the consensus in Washington is that additional stimulus aid is needed. However, even Congress could not overcome its own political logjam to approve an entire stimulus package or targeted measures. The question is whether a political impasse is a good justification for executive action.

President Trump believes that his executive action will light a fire under the legislature to come to an agreement. Perhaps this is a means to end. However, even the most noble intentions can have unintended consequences. 

As the Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote:

The good news is that President Trump on Saturday escaped the trillion-dollar terms of surrender demanded by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The bad news is that he followed the Barack Obama method with executive orders, one of which stretches the law in a way that a future progressive President will surely cite as a precedent.

All of this shows how our polarized politics is stressing the constitutional system. Democrats and the press blame Mr. Trump, but they are as culpable for enabling Mr. Obama’s executive end-runs around Congress. Congress and the President should work it out the constitutional way, but if they can’t, the voters will have to settle the debate.

Executive action cannot be a permanent solution. If Congress truly believes this is in the best interest of our nation, they will find their way back to Washington and pass bipartisan aid.