- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 30, 2020

Senate Republicans voted Thursday to begin debating an extension on unemployment benefits on the chamber floor, as they’re set to expire over the weekend.

The move, which passed on a 47-42 vote, would take up part of the House passed coronavirus relief package but replace it with unemployment benefits at a lower weekly level.

Democrats objected to the GOP suggesting they should cut the current $600 a week to only $200 in the next relief package. House Democrats pushed for extending the full $600. Some GOP lawmakers suggested $400 on average could be a compromise.

Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, one of the senators proposing a scaled-down approach, explained to reporters his plan would have unemployment remain at $600 a week for the next month, decrease to $400 a week a month after that, and then finally down to around 80% of a worker’s previous wages.

The two parties have not been able to agree on what number is right for the unemployed with Republicans worrying too high of a number would prevent workers from returning to work.



“We’ve had enough rope-a-dope. We’ve had enough empty talk. It’s time to go on the record,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

Mr. McConnell explained that the “shell” bill would be amendable, giving lawmakers more time over the weekend to continue negotiations.

“It makes it the pending business for next week. We can keep talking and hopefully make progress, because there’s no progress being made anywhere else,” the Kentucky Republican told Politico.

But Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer called the vote a “stunt.”

“For ten weeks — ten weeks — we have asked the leader to negotiate. And now finally they’ve woken up to the fact that we’re at a cliff but its too late,” the New York Democrat said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, is set to continue the fourth day of talks with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin Thursday evening, though expectations for process on a deal are low.

If the procedural motion succeeds, the final vote would come as early as Monday.

This means that even if the GOP’s stopgap proposal passed, the boosted unemployment benefits will lapse on Friday.

After the vote, Sen. Martha McSally, Arizona Republican, attempted to move a seven-day extension of the existing unemployment benefits, but her motion was blocked by Mr. Schumer, who once again argued it was a “stunt.”

“A one week fix can’t be implemented in time and the senator knows that,” Mr. Schumer said.

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