Democrats press leadership to vote Saturday on $600 unemployment insurance

Rank-and-file Democrats are pushing party leaders to vote this week on an extension of federal unemployment benefits that expired at the end of July.

Democratic leaders have already made the remarkable decision to cut the summer recess short, calling the House back to Washington on Saturday to vote on legislation providing billions of dollars to the Postal Service.

Now, dozens of Democratic lawmakers want to expand the weekend itinerary, pressing leadership to stage another vote reinstating the lapsed $600 weekly unemployment insurance that benefited millions of workers laid off by the coronavirus recession.


In a soon-to-be-sent letter to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse Republican proposes constitutional amendment to prevent Supreme Court expansion Business groups oppose Paycheck Fairness Act, citing concerns it could threaten bonuses and negotiating New US sanctions further chill Biden-Putin relations MORE (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse panel approves bill to set up commission on reparations Race debate grips Congress Watchdog: Capitol Police need 'culture change' MORE (D-Md.), the lawmakers are urging consideration of legislation to extend that subsidy until the public health crisis subsides by tying it to automatic economic triggers.

"Nearly 30 million Americans, or one in five workers, are currently relying on unemployment benefits to keep a roof over their head, put food on the table, and keep their kids healthy," the lawmakers wrote. "The enhanced unemployment compensation of $600 per week provided families support to meet their needs, replaced lost earnings, stabilized household spending, and in turn, stimulated the broader economy."

The letter is being organized by the head of the New Democrat Coalition, Rep. Derek KilmerDerek Christian KilmerModerate Democrats press for auto-stabilizers in COVID-19 aid package House Democrat says federal workforce recovering from 'a lot of harm' under Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Focus on vaccine, virus, travel MORE (Wash.), and two other members of the group, Reps. Scott PetersScott H. PetersBiden clean electricity standard faces high hurdles House Democrats introduce carbon pricing measure Democrats target Trump methane rule with Congressional Review Act MORE (Calif.) and Don Beyer (Va.). As of Tuesday afternoon, it had gathered the support of roughly 50 other Democrats, with more endorsements expected before day's end.

The fight over an extension of unemployment benefits has emerged as a central sticking point in the bipartisan negotiations — now stalled — over another emergency coronavirus relief package.

Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer lays groundwork for future filibuster reform Holder, Yates lead letter backing Biden pick for Civil Rights Division at DOJ Capitol Police officer killed in car attack lies in honor in Capitol Rotunda MORE (D-N.Y.) have insisted on an extension of the $600 subsidy, which had supplemented weekly state-based benefits since its adoption as part of the CARES Act in late March.


That figure was rejected by the Republican negotiators — Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinDemocrats justified in filibustering GOP, says Schumer Yellen provides signature for paper currency Biden's name will not appear on stimulus checks, White House says MORE and White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsBoehner finally calls it as he sees it Stephen Miller launching group to challenge Democrats' policies through lawsuits A year with the coronavirus: How we got here MORE — who have joined other conservatives in warning that it's too generous a benefit, one that creates a disincentive for the unemployed to return to work. Amid the impasse, the $600 payment expired on July 31.

After talks broke down earlier this month, President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden administration still seizing land near border despite plans to stop building wall: report Illinois House passes bill that would mandate Asian-American history lessons in schools Overnight Defense: Administration says 'low to moderate confidence' Russia behind Afghanistan troop bounties | 'Low to medium risk' of Russia invading Ukraine in next few weeks | Intelligence leaders face sharp questions during House worldwide threats he MORE signed an executive order designed to provide an additional $400 per week. The actual weekly payment will drop to $300, however, in cases where states are too strapped to provide an additional $100, as the program was initially designed.

Kilmer, Peters, Beyer and the other Democrats pressing for a vote this week want to divorce jobless benefits from such political battles — which frequently end in stalemates — by linking them directly to economic conditions on the ground. That system of automatic triggers is popular among progressives, but was not included in the Democrats' $3.4 trillion HEROES Act, which passed the House in May, due to budget concerns.

The Democrats writing to Pelosi and Hoyer on Tuesday said that exclusion was a mistake.

"While there are various proposals to extend unemployment benefits, the only way to provide financial relief to millions of Americans without being subject to political hurdles, is to enact automatic stabilizers for unemployment benefits," the lawmakers wrote in their letter.

"By passing legislation that ties unemployment benefits to economic triggers, we can ensure that aid is restored to those who need it and prevent future lapses as long as the economy tells us aid is needed," they wrote.