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Politics Chat: Trump Extends Coronavirus Relief In Executive Order


This is America right now by the numbers. Some 5 million people have confirmed coronavirus infections. Just yesterday, 55,000 people tested positive. COVID-19 killed 1,100 people in the last 24 hours, and more than 30 million people are relying on some form of unemployment benefit. Congress has failed so far to agree on a new relief bill, so yesterday, President Trump signed executive orders to extend a number of temporary economic measures. And all of this is happening as we race toward an election in November. We're joined now by NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

Hi, Mara.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: So the president spent a lot of time slamming Democratic lawmakers yesterday and rolled out economic relief that we should say is temporary. But aren't many Senate Republicans dead set against extending these extra benefits?

LIASSON: Yes, they are, but they're also supposedly against any president usurping Congress's constitutional power of the purse. That is the power to tax and spend. But politically, for the moment, at least, this is a point for Trump. He gets to say, Congress couldn't or wouldn't act, but I did - even though there might be a lot less than meets the eye with some of these executive actions. It's unclear if the unemployment extension will actually happen. And when it comes to the eviction relief, for instance, the memo he signed merely tells federal agencies to, quote, "consider" if evictions should be stopped.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So maybe less there than meets the eye. Meanwhile, we should note - yeah. We should note that the pace of the presidential race is, of course, picking up. And Vice President Joe Biden is giving more interviews and doing more public speaking. And Republicans are watching, and they have weaponized some of Biden's answers.

LIASSON: Well, some of Biden's answers have been what we call gaffes. He made another one while answering your question, Lulu, on a panel consisting of Black and Latino journalists. And you asked him a question that was very important to Latino voters in Florida. You asked him if he would reengage with Cuba. Here's what he said.


JOE BIDEN: What you all know but most people don't know - unlike the African American community, with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community with incredibly different attitudes about different things.

LIASSON: Unlike the African American community - why bring up African Americans at all and suggest that they are monolithic in their views? So this is another gaffe. Biden's recent gaffes are often about African Americans. Remember, he said, if you're voting for Trump, quote, "you ain't Black." They're always unprompted. And it's inexplicable, given the support he has among African Americans, given that African American voters saved his candidacy.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But is this a winning strategy for the GOP?

LIASSON: Well, look. They depend on Biden making gaffes. They're hoping to use them against him. But the big question is maybe this is like 2016 when all of the outrageous things that Trump said the Democrats thought would hurt him didn't. Biden's poll numbers are pretty steady. Why? Maybe because this race is a referendum on the incumbent. And the big question is, will it stay that way? Will Trump succeed in making this race into a binary choice? So stay tuned for that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Indeed. NPR national political correspondent, as always on Sunday. Mara, thank you so much.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.