Senate Democrats vote to provide $300 unemployment benefits into September
Senate Democrats voted early Saturday morning to provide a $300 weekly federal unemployment payment into early September — effectively undoing a GOP effort to end those payments in mid-July.
Senators voted 50-49 to add the amendment from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) into the roughly $1.9 trillion coronavirus bill currently being debated by the chamber.
All 50 Democratic senators vote for the amendment, which provides the weekly $300 payment until Sept. 6. Every Republican on hand to vote opposed it.
The vote came roughly an hour after Senate Republicans were able to get a short-lived win when they muscled an amendment from Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) temporarily into the coronavirus bill. Portman’s amendment provided a $300-per-week payment but until July 18.
Republicans were able to claim the brief victory because Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who supported the subsequent Democratic amendment, also voted for Portman’s proposal.
But a Democratic aide had telegraphed in advance how the drama would play out. There was a roughly hour delay between the Portman and Wyden votes because Democrats were still waiting to find out the cost of their proposal.
“We expect Senator Portman to offer his UI [unemployment insurance] amendment and for it to pass. However, it will be superseded by Senate Democrats’ new UI agreement, which will be offered and passed as an amendment tonight,” the Democratic aide said ahead of the votes.
Both of the proposals are a change from the House-passed bill that would have provided a $400-per-week payment through late August.
Democrats kept the debate over the coronavirus relief bill in limbo for nearly 12 hours starting midday Friday as they tried to work out the agreement on the unemployment language.
They had initially indicated that they had a deal on Friday morning that would have provided the $300 unemployment benefit until early October.
But as the day dragged on — and Democrats set a new record for the longest vote in modern Senate history — it became obvious that Democrats were scrambling to lock down Manchin’s support.
Because of the thin 50-50 margin, Democrats needed the support of their entire caucus to get a deal on the unemployment payments into the bill. They announced their final agreement, which had Manchin’s support, shortly before 8 p.m. on Friday.
In addition to the $300-per-week payment, the Democratic agreement also omits $10,200 of unemployment benefits from federal income taxes for households with an income of less than $150,000.
“Our goal has been to secure the strongest possible protections for jobless Americans that could pass the Senate,” Wyden said ahead of the vote.