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Senate rejects GOP attempt to change unemployment benefits in coronavirus stimulus bill

The Senate rejected an attempt by four Republican senators to change boosted unemployment benefits included in a mammoth coronavirus stimulus package. 
 
Senators voted 48-48 on an amendment that would cap unemployment benefits at 100 percent of an individual's salary before they were laid off. Sixty votes were required for the amendment to pass.
 
GOP Sens. Ben SasseBen SasseGOP senators applaud Biden for global vaccine donation plans Pence: Trump and I may never 'see eye to eye' on events of Jan. 6 White House: Biden will not appoint presidential Jan. 6 commission MORE (Neb.), Rick Scott (Fla.), Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottKerry Washington backs For the People Act: 'Black and Brown voters are being specifically targeted' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Bipartisan group reaches infrastructure deal; many questions remain Black Republican advocates his case for CBC membership MORE (S.C.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamProgressives rave over Harrison's start at DNC Senate confirms Garland's successor to appeals court Progressives want to tighten screws beyond Manchin and Sinema MORE (S.C.) pushed for the changes to the coronavirus aid bill over concerns that the agreement struck by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Schumer to trigger reconciliation process on Wednesday | Four states emerge as test case for cutting off jobless benefits GOP senator: I want to make Biden a 'one-half-term president' McConnell presses for 'actual consequences' in disclosure of tax data MORE (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerOvernight Energy: Schumer to trigger reconciliation process Wednesday | Bipartisan bill would ban 'forever chemicals' in cosmetics | Biden admin eyes step toward Trump-era proposal for uranium reserve GOP senator: I want to make Biden a 'one-half-term president' How Biden can get the infrastructure bill through Congress MORE (D-N.Y.) and 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 would "incentivize" individuals not to return to work. 
 
"I plan to support this legislation tonight, but I do want to fix it first," said Tim Scott. "The goal is simply to keep you whole while you're unemployed because of COVID-19." 
 
Sasse added that Congress should be "generous [but] we don't want this piece of the bill to create an incentive for folks to stop working." 
 
The GOP senators first raised concerns about the provision earlier Wednesday after they reportedly learned about the details of the increased unemployment benefits during a 92-minute conference call about the forthcoming bill. 
 
The unemployment provision includes four months of bolstered unemployment benefits, including increasing the maximum unemployment benefit by $600 for four months. 
 
But the GOP senators argued that the agreement, which they've called a "drafting error," could prompt individuals who earn less while working compared to the unemployment benefits to quit their jobs or not return to work.
 
"Something hit me like a ton of bricks. ... Under this bill you get $23.15 an hour based on a 40-hour work week not to work," Graham said from the Senate floor on Wednesday night. "We've created Pandora's box for our economy." 

They warned that they would slow down the stimulus package unless they got their amendment vote. Under the Senate's rules, McConnell would need cooperation from every senator to speed up the stimulus package and pass it on Wednesday. 
 
But the group's amendment got bipartisan pushback, making it unlikely to get it added to the bill. 
 
Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinHarris calls for pathway to citizenship for Dreamers on DACA anniversary The Hill's Morning Report - Biden on Putin: 'a worthy adversary' McConnell sparks new Supreme Court fight MORE (D-Ill.) warned that they were told by the Department of Labor that implementing a state-by-state cap that met previous wages was not feasible given the different unemployment systems used across the country. 
 
"The way you want to calculate it, we're told cannot be done," Durbin said. 
 
Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyBipartisan infrastructure deal takes fire from left and right Democrats mull overhaul of sweeping election bill Rising crime rejuvenates gun control debate on campaign trail MORE (D-Conn.) tweeted: “Let's not over-complicate this. Several Republican Senators are holding up the bipartisan Coronavirus emergency bill because they think the bill is too good for laid off Americans.”
 

A Senate GOP aide also pushed back against the four senators, underscoring the divisions within the caucus, saying that "nothing in this bill incentivizes businesses to lay off employees; in fact, it’s just the opposite."
 
"Each state has a different UI program, so the drafters opted for a temporary across-the-board UI boost of $600, which can deliver needed aid in a timely manner rather than burning time to create a different administrative regime for each state," the aide said. "It’s also important to remember that nobody who voluntarily leaves an available job is eligible for UI."