Four Senate Republicans opposed a speedy passage to the $2 trillion coronavirus economic stimulus package Wednesday, warning a “massive drafting error” in the bill could incentivize workers leaving their jobs.
Sens. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Tim Scott of South Carolina, Rick Scott of Florida and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina argued that, as written, the bolstered unemployment program could provide more money than some workers earn in their paychecks.
“We cannot encourage people to make more money in unemployment than they do with employment,” Tim Scott said.
The $2 trillion deal includes $250 billion in a robust unemployment program — providing $600 per week, on top of additional gig-worker benefits, for four months.
“I just can’t imagine the effect in South Carolina and other places when you realize you’re getting $24 an hour on unemployment. So every employer in the state has to compete against a $24-an-hour minimum wage,” Mr. Graham said. “The most responsible thing is to fix this now.”
The unemployment program was one of Democrats’ top priorities in the five-day negotiation process.
The senators said they were hopeful the Senate would accept an amendment to adjust the language so unemployment benefits are capped at 100% of a worker’s paycheck.
However, they would not say if they would force the bill to go through all of the Senate’s procedural votes if their amendment vote is not accepted.
“We’re not trying to talk process right now,” Mr. Sasse said.
The Senate is set to vote on the package Wednesday, but a final version of the bill’s text as not been publicly released.
Conservative economist Stephen Moore said President Trump should veto the measure if the problem isn’t fixed.
“It’s worth vetoing this bill just to get that out of the bill,” Mr. Moore told The Washington Times. You’re talking about dramatically inhibiting the recovery, which is what we really should be looking for two, three, four months from now — making sure the economy’s really booming. You’re not going to have a boom in the economy if you’re paying people not to work.”
Mr. Moore said congressional Republicans shouldn’t have agreed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s demand for four months of expanded unemployment insurance.
“It’s crazy. Republicans wanted two months, and they caved in to Pelosi and gave her four,” he said. “And people say, ‘Well, what if the crises aren’t over in two months?’ Well, then you just extend it by a month, but you don’t bake it into the cake.”
• Dave Boyer contributed to this report.