Democratic leaders oppose short-term extension of federal unemployment benefits

Congress hasn't required states to enforce a work search requirement as a condition to receive the $600 pandemic jobless benefits, which expire on Friday without an extension

Updated: July 31, 2020 - 6:21pm

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Congressional negotiators as of late Friday afternoon had yet to reach an agreement on another coronavirus stimulus package or an extension of the $600 federal unemployment benefit before it expires at the end of the day.

The federal jobless benefits were originally part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act that Congress passed in March in response to the pandemic. Congress did not require states to impose a work search rule for recipients of the federal benefit, which is paid on top of state unemployment benefits during the pandemic.

According to CNBC, “most states waived these rules at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, as the public-health emergency necessitated social-distancing measures and economic shutdowns pushed employers to cut more than 21 million jobs from their payrolls in March and April.”

Some states like Arkansas, Missouri and Nebraska have reportedly decided to reinstate job-search requirements for recipients of the "pandemic unemployment assistance" as state economies re-open.

Lawmakers such as Rep. Warren Davidson have said some of the small business owners in his district are struggling to hire staff because unemployment payments are higher than the previous salaries certain workers were earning when factoring in the $600-a-week federal benefit. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer have said that they oppose a short-term extension of the benefits. Democratic leaders support the $3 trillion stimulus bill titled the HEROES Act, which the House passed in May, that extends the benefit through January.

Pelosi was asked on Friday if she would support GOP Sen. Mitt Romney’s 3-month unemployment extension proposal.

“The business community always talks about needing certainty in their lives or this or that but somehow or other we think we can diminish the recognition for that. God bless him for having a proposal. I don’t think he can pass that in the Senate either,” she said.

The Republican-led Senate's new coronavirus stimulus package does not include the full $600 weekly benefit.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, the Senate pro tempore, tweeted Friday that fellow GOP Sen. Martha McSally “tried to get a short term extension of unemployment benefits while negotiations continue but was blocked by Sen. Schumer.”

McSally, an Arizona Republican, had proposed a seven-day extension of the $600 benefit.

Grassley wrote that “these extra federal benefits expire 2day thx to Democrats who want to damage GOP in the election more than help Americans w/out a job.”

Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden was asked on Friday why Senate Democrats aren’t supporting the one-month extension of the federal benefit that the White House reportedly offered during negotiations with congressional leaders on another stimulus package.

“These ideas that somehow you could just throw out a sum of money and everything is going to be taken care of in a matter of days is just not correct based on the unemployment experts, these agencies, tell us,” the Oregon Democrat said. “All of these Republican proposals make changes to what has been done already.”

Wyden continued: “This idea that Republicans are peddling – which runs through all of their proposals – that they can make changes quickly and help people is wrong.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should bring the HEROES Act to the floor for debate and a vote.

McConnell has referred to the bill as a Democratic Party wish-list. House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy has also criticized the legislation, pointing out that “cannabis” is referenced more than “jobs” in its text.

Pelosi was asked why cannabis is mentioned in the bill when it is not directly related to coronavirus.

“I don’t agree with you that cannabis is not related to this,” she said. “This is a therapy that has proven successful.”

Just the News reached out to Pelosi’s office for clarification about her cannabis comment but did not receive a response.

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