McConnell: Beefed up unemployment benefits will not be in next coronavirus bill

McConnell: Beefed up unemployment benefits will not be in next coronavirus bill
© Bonnie Cash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Defense & National Security — US, Iran return to negotiating table Senate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo On The Money — Biden stresses calm amid omicron fears MORE (R-Ky.) said Wednesday that expanded unemployment benefits passed as part of March's $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill will not be included in the next package passed by Congress. 

McConnell, during a call with House Republicans, stood by the GOP's decision to "pause" before passing a "phase four" bill and indicated that the holding pattern would continue for the immediate future as they assess the impact of previous coronavirus bills. 

However, McConnell told House Republicans that if Congress passed another bill, technically the fifth piece of coronavirus legislation, Republicans would "clean up the Democrats' crazy policy that is paying people more to remain unemployed than they would earn if they went back to work."

ADVERTISEMENT

"This will not be in the next bill," McConnell said, according to a source briefed on the call. 

As part of March's coronavirus relief bill, Congress beefed up unemployment benefits to provide an additional $600 a week in unemployment compensation for roughly four months.

The provision sparked fierce backlash from Senate Republicans over concerns that it would result in some individuals making more on unemployment than they did at their previous jobs. 

But the Senate rejected an attempt by four GOP senators to change the bill at the time to cap unemployment benefits at 100 percent of an individual's salary before they were laid off. Every present GOP senator besides Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo Graham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks On The Money — Biden sticks with Powell despite pressure MORE (Maine) and Cory GardnerCory GardnerGun control group alleges campaign finance violations in lawsuit against NRA Colorado Supreme Court signs off on new congressional map Colorado remap plan creates new competitive district MORE (Colo.) voted for the amendment, but it fell short of the 60 votes needed.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead Biden move to tap oil reserves draws GOP pushback MORE (R-S.C.), one of the sponsors of the amendment, asked President TrumpDonald TrumpPence: Supreme Court has chance to right 'historic wrong' with abortion ruling Prosecutor says during trial that actor Jussie Smollett staged 'fake hate crime' Overnight Defense & National Security — US, Iran return to negotiating table MORE during a closed-door caucus lunch on Tuesday to agree not to extend the beefed up unemployment benefits. 

"I asked him not to agree to that. That we can't. You can extend some assistance, but you don't want to pay people more unemployed than they made working," Graham said.

Graham specified that Trump did not explicitly say he would not support extending the benefits but that president "agrees that that is hurting the economic recovery."

"He didn't say he wasn’t going to sign a bill with it in, but he agreed that that was a problem we need to look at," Graham added.

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyNo deal in sight as Congress nears debt limit deadline GOP holds on Biden nominees set back gains for women in top positions This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead MORE (R-Utah) added that he would like to "fix" the unemployment provision "because we're now paying people, in some cases, more money to stay home." 

The pushback to extending the unemployment benefits in Congress's next piece of coronavirus-related legislation comes after a nearly $3 trillion bill passed by House Democrats last week would extend the extra $600 per week through Jan. 31, 2021.

ADVERTISEMENT

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) fired back at McConnell on Wednesday, warning that scaling back unemployment assistance could result in a "full-blown human catastrophe."  

“There is broad agreement among economists that Congress needs to pass much more stimulus to help the economy recover," he said. "Cutting back federal assistance at the height of the crisis would mean self-inflicted disaster, devastation and additional deaths. That must not happen. 

Republicans have panned the House-passed bill, declaring it "dead on arrival" in the GOP-controlled Senate. 

McConnell, during the Wednesday call with his House counterparts, said Congress might need to pass additional legislation but that it would not be like the House bill. 

"If we do another bill, it won’t look anything like the House Democrats' bill," he said.