White House trade adviser Peter Navarro on Sunday defended President Donald Trump’s decision to use executive orders to provide relief to people impacted economically by the coronavirus pandemic, arguing his hand had been forced by congressional inaction.
“The Lord and the Founding Fathers created executive orders because of partisan bickering and divided government. That’s what we have here,” Navarro said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”
On Saturday, Trump signed four executive orders intended to help Americans struggling financially during the pandemic. The orders approve an additional $400 in weekly unemployment benefits, suspend payments on some student loans, protect some Americans from eviction and allow employers to defer payroll taxes.
Navarro’s divine attribution for the origin of executive orders was mocked by many on social media.
“Question for Navarro: Was that in the Old Testament or the New Testament? Or perhaps the Koran?” tweeted Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe.
“Yes and the dinosaurs signed the declaration of independence! Get this babbling sleaze ball idiot off tv,” tweeted another user.
“Missed that one in my Lutheran Catechism,” tweeted Chris Gibbs, a farmer and former Ohio Republican Party official who became an independent because of his disapproval of Trump’s trade policies, in response to Navarro’s comment.
Though the Founding Fathers did not explicitly include executive orders in the Constitution, a 2014 review by the Congressional Research Service found “such orders are accepted as an inherent aspect of presidential power” under the general executive powers granted the president under Article II. Though the Supreme Court has determined that an executive order may only have the force of law if it is based in power vested in the president by the Constitution or by acts of Congress.
“Despite the amorphous nature of the authority to issue executive orders, presidential memoranda, and proclamations, these instruments have been employed by every President since the inception of the Republic,” the CRS report says.
Navarro suggested House Democrats “would prefer to see the economy go into the tank” in order to hurt Trump. But Democrats argue they passed the more than $3 trillion Heroes Act in May and blame Republicans for not being willing to negotiate a compromise.
“We’ve got two sides, you know, one’s at $1 trillion, another’s at $3 trillion The first thing you have to do is agree on some number in between. Once you do that, step two is figure out within that what you both agree on,” Navarro said. “And then what you do is you trade off, go back and forth across the table what you want, respecting each other’s red lines. You don’t make the Republicans pay for Planned Parenthood or pot farms, for example. This should be easy.”
But Democrats argued that was exactly what they have done by lowering the price tag of their proposal to $2 trillion.
“If that is the standard, we’ve not only accepted it, we’ve offered it,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in response to Navarro’s comments. “We were at $3.4 trillion in the bill that Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats passed 12 weeks ago. 12 weeks ago. And now, we’ve come down to the range of 2 trillion. They were at a trillion. We’ve asked them to come up a trillion. It does exactly what Navarro suggested.”
“We are ready to meet the White House and the Republicans halfway. We’ve said that from the start. We have priorities that may be different than theirs. But in terms of a dollar amount, we’re exactly where Mr. Navarro suggested.”
Navarro has made several controversial comments in recent weeks. In one, CNN cut him off for repeatedly referring to the coronavirus as the “China virus,” a term repeated by Trump that has been condemned as racist by several lawmakers on Capitol Hil. He also questioned the credibility of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases. Last week, he said “doctors’ opinions are a dime a dozen” as he insisted the drug hydroxychloroquine should be used to treat COVID-19 despite leading health experts’ conclusions that it is ineffective.
Many on Twitter criticized NBC News for booking Navarro and host Chuck Todd for his handling of the interview.
“Who’s the idiot? Peter Navarro or the person who puts Peter Navarro on television?” asked Democratic consultant Adam Parkhomenko