After Republican and Democratic Leadership announced they finally reached an agreement on the massive, $2 trillion economic stimulus package in the early hours of Wednesday morning - four Republican Senators are sounding an alarm that the bill contains a “life-threatening drafting error” that needs to be fixed immediately.
Senators Tim Scott (R-SC), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ben Sasse (R-NB) released a joint statement Wednesday afternoon claiming “unless this bill is fixed, there is a strong incentive for employees to be laid off instead of going to work. This isn’t an abstract, philosophical point -- it’s an immediate, real-world problem.”
The current bill includes four months of bolstered unemployment benefits and increases the maximum benefit by $600. But because there is no salary cap, the senators argue some people filing for unemployment will be paid more unemployed than they were working.
“If the federal government accidentally incentivizes layoffs, we risk life-threatening shortages in sectors where doctors, nurses, and pharmacists are trying to care for the sick, and where growers and grocers, truckers and cooks are trying to get food to families' tables,” the joint statement continued. “This isn’t who we are as Americans; this isn’t what we do in a crisis.”
Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) also joined his three Republican colleagues in a press conference Wednesday to address the issue.
“Once we get this crisis behind us, we shouldn’t have policies in place that disincentivize people from returning to the workforce,” said Scott in a tweet.
Once we get this crisis behind us, we shouldn’t have policies in place that disincentivize people from returning to the workforce. https://t.co/ae4AZ5zFB9
— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) March 25, 2020
The four senators say they believe this is a drafting error and are calling for a quick fix – an amendment to cap the unemployment benefits at 100 percent of a person’s salary.
"This legislation would allow you in unemployment to make more than in employment,” said Sen. Tim Scott. “We know that this is a drafting error"
However, PBS Newshour’s Lisa Desjardins reports a Democratic aide involved in the negotiations tells her this amendment was not originally included because it is “technically going to be impossible for states to administer.”
NEW regarding the unemployment issue w/ the bill.
A Senate Dem. aide involved tells me that the reason the bill did not pay "100%" of income is b/c Treasury/the admin. said that was technically going to be impossible for states to administer.
B/c each has diff formula/system.
— Lisa Desjardins (@LisaDNews) March 25, 2020
The senators demands to get this fixed has sparked immediate pushback from their Democratic colleagues.
“Let's not over-complicate this,” tweeted Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). “Several Republican Senators are holding up the bipartisan Coronavirus emergency bill because they think the bill is too good for laid off Americans.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders released a statement saying it would be an “outrage to prevent working-class Americans to receive the emergency unemployment assistance included in this legislation.”
"Unless these Republican senators drop their objection, I am prepared to put a hold on this bill until stronger conditions are imposed on the $500 billion corporate welfare fund to make sure that any corporation receiving financial assistance under this legislation does not lay off workers, cut wages or benefits, ship jobs overseas or pay workers poverty wages,” continued Sanders.
Earlier today, Leader McConnell declared on the senate floor “the Senate is going to stand together, act together, and pass this historic relief today.”
But the objections raised by his four republican colleagues could stall plans to fast track the legislation through the Senate and get it passed later today.