A group of Republican senators has struck a deal with leaders to allow the $2 trillion economic relief package to pass the Senate on Wednesday evening.
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) have agreed to drop procedural objections and let the bill move on a fast track in exchange for a vote on an amendment to the package to cap beefed-up unemployment benefits at 100 percent of workers’ salaries.
Their amendment will need 60 votes to pass, and it’s expected to fail, setting the stage for final passage of the mammoth coronavirus stimulus package later Wednesday evening.
Graham argued that for South Carolina and other states with low per capita income, a federal plus-up of $600 per week in unemployment benefits will make it tough for employers to hire workers.
“Under this bill, you get $23.15 an hour based on a 40-hour workweek not to work. And if you’re trying to hire somebody in South Carolina the next four months, you got to compete with that wage,” Graham said on the floor.
Graham later told reporters that he will allow the massive economic relief bill to pass Wednesday if he gets a vote on his amendment. He said he plans to support the 800-page package and predicted votes before midnight.
“We’re going to vote,” he said. “My amendment along with the two Scotts and Sen. Sasse says you can get 100 percent of your salary and not more than that.”
“If you make $15 dollars an hour working in South Carolina — a lot of people do — this bill will pay $23 an hour not to work, and I think that’s perverse incentive. It’s going to keep people from being hired,” he added. “To hire somebody in South Carolina, you’re going to have to compete with a $23.15 rate.”
Graham dismissed critics who’ve said his concerns are unfounded because unemployment benefits only go to people who are laid off and that workers who quit wouldn’t be eligible.
The South Carolina senator said it’s almost impossible to dispute an unemployment claim on suspicion that a worker quit instead of being laid off.
The GOP senators threatened earlier Wednesday to hold up the package because as drafted it wouldn’t cap unemployment benefits at 100 percent of salary.
Without consent from all 100 senators, the Senate passage could have been delayed until Friday.