Senators threaten to delay coronavirus stimulus bill in dispute over benefits – By Grace Segers (CBS News) / March 25 2020
Washington — After an early morning breakthrough in talks, the Senate hoped to vote Wednesday on a $2 trillion stimulus bill responding to the coronavirus pandemic, but a standoff emerged late in the day that threatened to delay its speedy passage.
The legislation is the most expensive stimulus package in U.S. history. Congressional aides were finalizing the text of the bill throughout the day as lawmakers circulated summaries of its provisions, including an expansion of unemployment benefits, direct payments of $1,200 to most individuals, and hundreds of billions of dollars for companies, hospitals and state and local governments.
The expansion of unemployment benefits became a point of contention that could potentially derail efforts to quickly bring the measure to the Senate floor for final passage.
The bill increases the maximum unemployment insurance payment by $600 per week and extends the period for which workers are eligible to four months. Four Republican senators — Senators Tim Scott, Rick Scott, Ben Sasse and Lindsey Graham — raised concerns about what they called a “drafting error” in the bill, arguing that the expansion could incentivize workers to lose their jobs if the totality of state and federal unemployment benefits exceeds their current income.
The GOP senators proposed capping total unemployment insurance at 100% of income, and said they were preparing an amendment to that effect. That prompted Senator Bernie Sanders to threaten to place a “hold” on the bill unless Scott, Sasse and Graham dropped their objections.
“In my view, 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 objections, I am prepared to put a hold on this bill until stronger conditions are imposed on the $500 billion corporate welfare fund,” Sanders said in a statement posted to Twitter.