Ahead of last night’s unanimous passage of the $2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, four Republican senators sought to change enhanced unemployment insurance benefits included in the gargantuan package.
The four senators pressed for the changes to bill over concerns that the final version of the package would incentivize people not to go back to work.
“A massive drafting error in the current version of the coronavirus relief legislation could have devastating consequences: Unless this bill is fixed, there is a strong incentive for employees to be laid off instead of going to work,” Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in a joint statement on Wednesday afternoon. “This isn’t an abstract, philosophical point—it’s an immediate, real-world problem.”
Joined by Rick Scott (R-Fla.), the four sought to amend the bill to cap unemployment benefits at 100 percent of an individual’s salary before they are laid off.
“I plan to support this legislation tonight, but I do want to fix it first,” said Scott (S.C.), The Hill reports. “The goal is simply to keep you whole while you’re unemployed because of COVID-19.”
The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China before it was transmitted worldwide.
The relief bill enhances unemployment benefits to the tune of an additional $600 a week over and above any state benefits, for a period of four months.
“It has unemployment insurance on steroids,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday. “But, and most importantly, the federal government will pay your salary, your full salary for now four months.”
The four GOP senators argued that the agreement would reduce the incentive to work.
“Something hit me like a ton of bricks … Under this bill you get $23.15 an hour based on a 40-hour work week not to work,” Graham said Wednesday, according to The Hill. “We’ve created Pandora’s box for our economy.”
There was bipartisan opposition to the amendment forwarded by the four GOP senators.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said the Department of Labor indicated that a state-by-state cap could not be harmonized nationwide because of differences in state unemployment systems.
“The way you want to calculate it, we’re told cannot be done,” Durbin said, the Hill reports.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said in a tweet: “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.
“Each state has a different UI program, so the drafters opted for a temporary across-the-board UI boost of $600, which can deliver needed aid in a timely manner rather than burning time to create a different administrative regime for each state,” a Senate GOP aide said, as cited by The Hill. “It’s also important to remember that nobody who voluntarily leaves an available job is eligible for UI.”
Senators rejected the amendment in a 48-48 vote and later passed, by 96 votes to none, what is poised to become the largest ever fiscal stimulus measure ever passed by Congress.
The unanimous vote, a rare departure from bitter partisanship in Washington, underscored how seriously members of Congress are taking the global pandemic as Americans suffer and the medical system reels.
The package is intended to flood the country with cash in a bid to stem the crushing impact on the economy of an intensifying epidemic that has killed more than 900 people in the United States and infected at least 60,000.
It follows two others that became law this month. The money at stake amounts to nearly half of the total $4.7 trillion the U.S. government spends annually.
President Donald Trump, who has promised to sign the bill as soon as it passes the House, expressed approval on Twitter. “96-0 in the United States Senate. Congratulations AMERICA!” he wrote.