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 SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseHillicon Valley: Lawmakers demand answers on Chinese COVID hacks | Biden re-ups criticism of Amazon | House Dem bill seeks to limit microtargeting Lawmakers ask for briefings on Chinese targeting of coronavirus research On The Money: GOP senators heed Fed chair's call for more relief | Rollout of new anti-redlining laws spark confusion in banking industry | Nearly half of American households have lost employment income during pandemic MORE (Neb.), Rick Scott (Fla.), Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottThe truth behind Biden's 'you ain't black' gaffe Senators ask DeVos to adjust FAFSA form due to the coronavirus pandemic Juan Williams: Justice Thomas seizes his moment in the Trump era MORE (S.C.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US virus deaths exceed 100,000; Pelosi pulls FISA bill Frustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  GOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas 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 McConnellMcConnell urges people to wear masks: 'There's no stigma' Frustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  Lack of child care poses major hurdle as businesses reopen MORE (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerLawmakers introduce bill to invest 0 billion in science, tech research The Democrats' out-party advantage in 2020 Democratic leaders say Trump testing strategy is 'to deny the truth' about lack of supplies MORE (D-N.Y.) and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: National Portrait Gallery's Kim Sajet says this era rewiring people's relationship with culture, art; Trump's war with Twitter heats up How lawmaker ties helped shape Fed chairman's COVID-19 response Business groups throw support behind House Democrat's bill to provide pandemic risk insurance 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 DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinFrustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  Senate Democrat introduces bill to protect food supply Democratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform 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 MurphySenators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day Congress eyes changes to small business pandemic aid Top Democrat to introduce bill to limit Trump's ability to fire IGs 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."