Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters Tuesday he is “prepared to support” a coronavirus stimulus package that includes an extension of the $600 enhanced unemployment checks that has now officially expired, as the GOP struggles to come to a consensus over the benefit.
With negotiations between Republicans and Democrats progressing slowly, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Monday that she’s not willing to negotiate the amount of unemployment relief, telling CNN, “I think that the number, the $600, is related more to the unemployment rate. If the unemployment goes down, then that number can go down.”
While Senate Republicans have proposed different cuts to the benefits, including a reduction to $200 a week before transitioning to a 70% wage replacement rate, President Trump on Friday signaled his support for the $600 checks.
McConnell on Tuesday said of the benefits, “If you’re looking for a total consensus among Republican senators, you’re not going to find it. So we do have divisions about what to do.”
However, McConnell said he would support a bill that included the $600 weekly checks if the Democrats, negotiating with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, agreed to it with the Trump Administration.
“Wherever this thing settles between the President of the United States and his team that have to sign it into law and the Democrats, a not-insignificant minority in the Senate and majority in the House, is something I’m prepared to support, even if I have some problems with certain parts of it,” McConnell said.
While it’s a sign of compromise, progress is still slow as a scheduled August recess for the Senate at the end of the week looms over the negotiations, making it increasingly unlikely a bill could be signed by then.
As Covid-19 continues to ravage the U.S., Congress is at an impasse over a new stimulus package. In May, House Democrats passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act, which includes an extension of the unemployment benefits initially granted with the signing of the CARES Act in March. However, Senate Republicans refused to negotiate the bill and instead waited until the end of July to introduce the $1 trillion HEALS Act, a collection of proposals that’s divisive among the GOP. Trump is reportedly considering executive action to address two dire issues: supplemental enhanced unemployment benefits and an eviction moratorium for certain renters.
30 million. That’s nearly how many Americans lost the $600 enhanced unemployment benefits after its expiration at the end of July, according to the Washington Post.