Group of Democrats Urge Pelosi to Pass Smaller Bill on Unemployment Benefits

August 19, 2020 Updated: August 19, 2020

A small group of House Democrats is trying to push Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to vote on a bill to extend federal unemployment benefits that expired in late July.

They called on Pelosi and also House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), urging them to hold a vote on Saturday to extend the unemployment benefits when the chamber reconvenes to vote on funding the U.S. Postal Service, according to a letter sent to Pelosi and other Democrats.

Reps. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), and Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) said the $600 per week unemployment benefits should be kept throughout the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.

“We owe it to people waiting to get back to work across the country not only to extend unemployment benefits to help them pay their bills, but to tie these benefits to economic conditions so workers are not held hostage by another cliff like this one,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. “We all understand that right now is not the time to turn off the pumps,” Peters told the Wall Street Journal.

Dubbing it the Worker Relief and Security Act, the move would “would extend unemployment benefits to those who need it and ensure benefits last for the duration of the recession by tying continued enhanced unemployment insurance to the health crisis and economic indicators,” according to their letter. They noted that it has been 18 days since the weekly $600 federal benefits expired, leaving about 30 million Americans without a source of any income.

They argued that about one in five American workers are also “relying on unemployment benefits to keep a roof over their head, put food on the table, and keep their kids healthy.”

Republicans previously argued that the $600 per week benefits create a disincentive for people not to return to work, while also terming it as unfair to people who are currently employed and pay taxes.

It’s not clear how many Democrats in the House will actually take up the measure.

The proposal comes about two weeks after talks between Pelosi, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and White House officials stalled on a broader pandemic relief package.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump, following the breakdown of the negotiations, took executive action to provide at least $300 per week in additional unemployment benefits, deferred student loan payments, suspended payroll taxes, and issued a moratorium on evictions. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, for many states, the additional unemployment benefits won’t be distributed until around Aug. 29.

Earlier Wednesday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters Pelosi’s willingness to vote on the Postal Service was “the first indication we have that she’ll do a skinny bill because obviously postal was part of the negotiations,” adding, “If she’s willing to do that, let’s add in the things we agree upon.”