On Friday, a federal supplement of $600 per week in unemployment expires (although the last checks went out the previous week) because bitterly divided lawmakers were not able to agree on how—or if—it should be extended; leaders in Washington will be under incredible pressure next week to reach a deal on the issue.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) speak … [+]
The Senate adjourned Thursday evening without reaching a deal; talks will continue over the weekend until lawmakers return on Monday to try again.
The unemployment benefit has become one of the most contentious issues involved in the debate over new stimulus legislation.
Democrats want it extended until January at the full $600 but Republicans want it slashed, believing that the supplement is so generous that it actually discourages people from returning to work.
The GOP would slash the benefits to $200 per week until states can implement a 70% wage replacement program—something that could take months for local employment offices to set up.
The Senate jockeyed over the issue for hours on Thursday as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) blocked two proposals—a short-term extension of the benefits at $200 per week from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and a seven-day extension of the $600 benefit from Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), a plan Trump later said he supported—as political “stunts.” Schumer then asked for another vote on the Heroes Act, the $3 trillion package passed by the House in May, which included an extension of the $600 benefits, that the GOP shot down again (they have ignored the House Democrats’ proposal since it was passed, insisting that it is too expensive, too partisan and unrealistic). Democratic leaders and White House reps met late Thursday evening without Hill Republicans, but again were unable to come to a compromise.
What to watch for
Talks will continue over the weekend and ramp up again next week, which is the last week before Senators are scheduled to leave Capitol Hill for their August recess. On Friday the Washington Post reported that the White House is willing to make a deal with Democrats that would leave liability protections for businesses that reopen—a top priority for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that he’s vowed not to negotiate on—out of the next round of relief. That move could set Republicans up for another bitter intraparty fight and more delays, or it could force more concessions from Republicans who have so far been unwilling to budge on the issue.
A federal moratorium on evicting renters living in buildings with federally backed mortgages has also expired. It’s an issue that has suddenly become a talking point for President Trump, who on Wednesday floated a separate, smaller bill that would include an extension of that eviction ban along with an extension of the unemployment supplement, though he didn’t offer specifics on what that would look like. The fractured GOP proposal (dubbed the HEALS Act, though it isn’t a single bill) didn’t include any new eviction protections at all—just one sign of major divisions between President Trump and the Senate GOP.