White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow appeared extremely confused by the executive actions President Donald Trump signed over the weekend to extend unemployment benefits, repeatedly claiming on Sunday that out-of-work Americans will receive far more money Trump’s orders say.
Amid a stalemate between Democrats and Republicans on coronavirus stimulus talks, the president attempted to do a potentially illegal end-around by issuing a series of orders from his New Jersey golf course. One action extended the weekly unemployment bonus, reducing the amount to $400 and requiring states to play 25 percent of the benefits. It is unclear how many states will be able to afford to pay their share of the bonus.
During a lengthy and contentious CNN interview on Sunday morning, Kudlow immediately insisted that the order would place at least twice as much cash as the order claims, leaving State of the Union host Dana Bash puzzled and bewildered.
“We’ve tried to get it through the Democratic House for, I don’t know, two or three times. And it’s going to be a form of economic assistance, probably you’ll get $800 total, federal and state,” Kudlow declared. “And if we get it going September 1st, which is what the deadline looks like, that’ll probably give the workforce an increase in wages.”
Bash, meanwhile, asked about the new $800 amount, prompting Kudlow to suddenly increase it another $400.
“$1,200. Well, at a minimum, we will put in 300 bucks and the states will continue with their 400 bucks,” he exclaimed. “But I think all they have to do is put up an extra dollar and we’ll be able to throw in the extra $100. So it should be — may not be in every case because, as you know, we’re talking averages. Some states higher, some states lower. But on average, Dana, it’ll run to about $800.”
The CNN host pushed back, pointing out the Trump aide was “talking about some other money that I don’t know about” while noting the executive action says $400 with the states kicking in $100.
“Well, we will stand ready to repurpose if states put in a little bit more is all it amounts to. Right now that number’s around $700,” Kudlow replied. “I think they’ll get to 800. Some states can get positive 800. The key point here is that it’s a wage increase, Dana, of about $1,200 for the last four months of the year. That’s a big pay hike.”
After providing viewers with a “reality check,” Bash eventually pivoted to the legality of the order, reminding Kudlow that he has previously said that only Congress could extend the unemployment benefits, prompting the White House official to claim he’s “not a lawyer” and he “probably spoke out of turn there.”
After Kudlow once again insisted out-of-work Americans would receive $1,200, Bash interjected: “You keep saying $1,200 per person. Are you talking about in addition to the unemployment that they’re already getting?”
“Oh, no. That’s the payroll — I beg your pardon. $1,200 will come from the payroll tax,” Kudlow responded, referencing the president’s claim that he’ll establish a payroll tax holiday through the end of the year.
“OK. We’re going to get to that,” Bash said. “Because there’s a lot of numbers here and it’s a little confusing.”
Kudlow then asserted once more that unemployed workers will receive $800 in additional benefits, prompting Bash to ask if he means $800 or $400.
“It should be $800. If the states step up, we’re prepared to match, that should come out $400 federal, $400 states,” he replied, despite the executive order saying no such thing.
“We’ll move on because I think this is not what the president said and it’s a bit confusing, and I think the fact that it’s not entirely known is very telling,” Bash noted, essentially throwing up her hands.