Senate rejects GOP attempt to change unemployment benefits in coronavirus stimulus bill

The Senate rejected an attempt by four Republican senators to change boosted unemployment benefits included in a mammoth coronavirus stimulus package. 
 
Senators voted 48-48 on an amendment that would cap unemployment benefits at 100 percent of an individual's salary before they were laid off. Sixty votes were required for the amendment to pass.
 
GOP Sens. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseAmerica's governors should fix unemployment insurance Mnuchin emerges as key asset in Trump's war against coronavirus House Republican urges Pompeo to take steps to limit misinformation from China on coronavirus MORE (Neb.), Rick Scott (Fla.), Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottHow much damage? The true cost of the Senate's coronavirus relief bill Senate unanimously passes T coronavirus stimulus package Senate rejects GOP attempt to change unemployment benefits in coronavirus stimulus bill MORE (S.C.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham asks colleagues to support call for China to close wet markets Justice IG pours fuel on looming fight over FISA court Trump says he's considering restricting travel to coronavirus 'hot spots' MORE (S.C.) pushed for the changes to the coronavirus aid bill over concerns that the agreement struck by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor Progressive group knocks McConnell for talking judicial picks during coronavirus Overnight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill MORE (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerBiden calls on Trump to appoint coronavirus 'supply commander' Democrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots Schumer doubles down in call for Trump to name coronavirus supply czar MORE (D-N.Y.) and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTrump eyes additional funds for small businesses impacted by pandemic Decentralized leadership raises questions about Trump coronavirus response Progressive group knocks McConnell for talking judicial picks during coronavirus MORE would "incentivize" individuals not to return to work. 
 
"I plan to support this legislation tonight, but I do want to fix it first," said Tim Scott. "The goal is simply to keep you whole while you're unemployed because of COVID-19." 
 
Sasse added that Congress should be "generous [but] we don't want this piece of the bill to create an incentive for folks to stop working." 
 
The GOP senators first raised concerns about the provision earlier Wednesday after they reportedly learned about the details of the increased unemployment benefits during a 92-minute conference call about the forthcoming bill. 
 
The unemployment provision includes four months of bolstered unemployment benefits, including increasing the maximum unemployment benefit by $600 for four months. 
 
But the GOP senators argued that the agreement, which they've called a "drafting error," could prompt individuals who earn less while working compared to the unemployment benefits to quit their jobs or not return 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 from the Senate floor on Wednesday night. "We've created Pandora's box for our economy." 

They warned that they would slow down the stimulus package unless they got their amendment vote. Under the Senate's rules, McConnell would need cooperation from every senator to speed up the stimulus package and pass it on Wednesday. 
 
But the group's amendment got bipartisan pushback, making it unlikely to get it added to the bill. 
 
Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus Senator Tom Coburn's government oversight legacy Democratic lawmakers demand government stop deporting unaccompanied children MORE (D-Ill.) warned that they were told by the Department of Labor that implementing a state-by-state cap that met previous wages was not feasible given the different unemployment systems used across the country. 
 
"The way you want to calculate it, we're told cannot be done," Durbin said. 
 
Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocrats seize on Trump's firing of intelligence community watchdog Testing struggles emerge as key hurdle to reopening country Democratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers MORE (D-Conn.) tweeted: “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.”
 

A Senate GOP aide also pushed back against the four senators, underscoring the divisions within the caucus, saying that "nothing in this bill incentivizes businesses to lay off employees; in fact, it’s just the opposite."
 
"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," the aide said. "It’s also important to remember that nobody who voluntarily leaves an available job is eligible for UI."