Republicans Threaten To Hold Up Stimulus Bill Over Unemployment Provision
Three Republican senators have promised to hold up a coronavirus stimulus bill that the Senate is trying to fast-track over what they said is a “drafting error” in the unemployment provision that could have “devastating effects.”
The Hill reported on Wednesday that Senators Tim Scott (R-SC), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Ben Sasse (R-NE) are demanding a vote on an amendment to fix the issue.
"Unless this bill is fixed, there is a strong incentive for employees to be laid off instead of going to work. ... We must sadly oppose the fast-tracking of this bill until this text is addressed, or the Department of Labor issues regulatory guidance that no American would earn more by not working than by working," the senators said in a statement.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wanted to pass the bill on Wednesday, but he needs the cooperation of every senator to make it happen.
The provision at issue is one that would provide four months of beefed-up unemployment benefits, which one GOP aide said would not do anything like the senators are warning about.
"Each state has a different UI program, so the drafters opted for a temporary across-the-board UI boost of $600 dollars, which can deliver needed aid in a timely manner rather than burning time to create a different administrative regime for each state. This increase is designed to make the average worker whole. It’s also important to remember that nobody who voluntarily leaves an available job is eligible for UI. Staff continue to work with the Department of Labor to ensure that it is administered as intended," the aide said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who negotiated the deal with McConnell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, said the provision “ensures that all workers are protected whether they work for businesses small, medium or large, along with self-employed and workers in the gig economy.”
Regardless, Scott, Graham and Sasse have warned that the formula will “incentivize” workers to quit their jobs if the enhanced unemployment is more than they make at work.
"We cannot encourage people to make more money in unemployment than they do in employment," Scott said during a press conference.
Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) had a different take, tweeting, “Let's not over-complicate this. Several Republican Senators are holding up the bipartisan Coronavirus emergency bill because they think the bill is too good for laid off Americans.”