Whitmer urges Trump to 'stop playing political games' over COVID-19 orders

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is calling on President Donald Trump to "stop playing political games" after he bypassed the nation's lawmakers, signing an order that replaces an expired unemployment benefit with a lower amount after talks with Congress on a new coronavirus relief package fell apart.

The Democratic governor said Trump's executive actions on Saturday, which included a plan to defer payroll taxes and scale back federal unemployment benefits for those out of work during the pandemic, "do nothing to protect the millions of unemployed Americans who need to put food on the table for themselves and their families."

“Once again, the president has refused to work together with Congress on a bipartisan recovery package that supports our states, families, frontline workers, and small businesses," Whitmer said in a Sunday statement. "He has routinely proven that he’s more focused on his chances in the November election than fighting the virus that has killed more than 160,000 Americans."

Whitmer said Trump's plan will put further strain on states already grappling with severe budget holes and it doesn't address the safe return to school for the nation's children.

“It’s time for the president to do the right thing, stop playing political games, and work with Congress on a recovery package that will help us fight this virus, protect working families, and send our kids, educators, and support staff back to school safely," she said.

Trump signed the multiple orders on Saturday at his private country club in New Jersey. 

Among them, an order that calls for up to $400 payments each week in supplemental unemployment benefits, one-third less than the $600 people had been receiving. 

Congress allowed those higher payments to lapse on Aug. 1, and negotiations to extend them had stalled, with the White House and Democrats at odds over the details. 

Trump, who is up for reelection in November, has faced criticism from his Democratic opponent, former vice president Joe Biden, who has accused Trump of issuing "a series of half-baked measures." and putting Social Security at risk.

Whitmer has been among those on Biden's shortlist of possible running mates. The first-term governor traveled to Delaware last weekend to meet with Biden. The meeting was the first known in-person session with a potential running mate for the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

Trumps executive orders, which also deferred federal student loan payments and continued a freeze on some evictions during the crisis, could face legal challenges questioning the president’s authority to spend taxpayer dollars without the express approval of Congress. 

“It’s $400 a week, and we’re doing it without the Democrats,” Trump said, asking states to cover 25% of the cost.

Trump said Saturday the orders “will take care of pretty much this entire situation, as we know it.”


The Associated Press contributed