Senate Adjourns After Failing to Agree on Extension of Expiring Jobless Benefits

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times. He has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education.
July 31, 2020Updated: July 31, 2020

The Senate has adjourned until Monday, Aug. 3, as Democrats and Republicans failed to agree on an extension of the $600-per-week jobless benefit that expires Friday.

As a last-ditch effort on Thursday to break a stalemate over the unemployment benefit, which Republicans want to scale back, arguing it is too generous and disincentivizes employment and hurts small businesses, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) introduced a bill (pdf) seeking to pass a short-term extension of the benefit at a reduced level of $200 per week, which Democrats rejected.

“States would be given two options for how to help their affected residents. 1) a flat $200/week or 2) an amount (not to exceed $500) to “plus up” unemployment benefits to 2/3 of a person’s lost wages,” Johnson said in a statement, explaining his bill, introduced jointly with Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.)

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) tried to pass the $3-trillion relief bill that the Democrat-controlled House passed in May but Republicans blocked it.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) derided the House relief package, called the HEROES Act, as a “totally unserious proposal.” He warned earlier this month that the bill would essentially be “dead-on-arrival” when it reached the Senate, saying it was too expensive and included too many unnecessary non-COVID-19-related measures. Republicans have criticized the bill as offering too much aid to illegal immigrants and not offering liability protection for businesses that reopen in the midst of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus epidemic.

Epoch Times Photo
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is swarmed by reporters as he leaves the Senate floor in Washington, on July 30, 2020. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

White House negotiators, led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, tried to persuade congressional Democrats late Thursday to accept a weeklong extension of the pandemic-related unemployment benefit, set to expire Friday.

“We want a temporary extension of enhanced unemployment benefits,” President Donald Trump said at the White House Thursday. “This will provide a critical bridge for Americans who lost their jobs to the pandemic through no fault of their own.”

Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) rejected the Republican offer, insisting on the need for a comprehensive relief package.

“We had a long discussion and we just don’t think they understand the gravity of the problem,” Schumer told reporters after a meeting attended by Pelosi, Mnuchin, and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

“They want to do one small thing that won’t solve the problem,” Schumer said of the White House proposal.

“I think they understand that we have to have a bill, but they just don’t realize how big it has to be,” Pelosi said, calling the short-term extension proposed by the White House negotiating team “worthless,” CBS reports.

Meadows accused Democrats of politically-motivated stalling.

“Tonight, once again, the White House offered a temporary extension of needed unemployment assistance—which expires tomorrow. And again, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi said no,” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said in a statement.

“What we’re seeing is clear. This is a politically motivated party that won’t take ‘yes’ for an answer,” he said.

In adjourning the Senate, McConnell took a procedural step that could allow voting on a potential compromise next week.

The sides agreed to talk again Friday and into the weekend.