Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is warming up to the idea of supporting the enhanced $600 weekly unemployment benefit that recently lapsed. After the benefit, which was approved under the CARES Act, lapsed on July 31 as Congressional lawmakers failed to reach a deal on the HEALS Act, McConnell on Tuesday opened a door for an extension of the benefit — though only if President Donald Trump were to support it.
"Wherever this thing settles between the president of the United States and his team, who has to sign it into law, and the Democrat, not insignificant minority in the Senate and majority in the House, is something I'm prepared to support," McConnell told reporters during his weekly Senate Republican leadership press conference when asked if he would support a negotiated package continuing the benefit, according to Business Insider. "Even if I have some problems with certain parts of it."
McConnell did, however, note that despite his potential support of the measure, it would likely fail to gain the same fanfare among his Republican colleagues, who have long expressed concerns that the benefit has dissuaded Americans from returning to work. McConnell said that "it's not going to produce a kumbaya moment like we had back in March and April where everybody voted aye," suggesting that many Republicans would not vote for the final legislation if it restored the benefit. He noted that despite that, though, he and others realize that "the American people, in the end, need help."
In its current form, the HEALS Act seeks to reduce the total weekly amount from $600 to just $200, or from $2,400 per month to $800, through September. Beginning in October, a new formula would be implemented that would cap unemployment benefits at 70 percent of a person's wages before they had lost their job. This has largely been met with criticism from Democrats, who have cited the enhanced benefit as a lifeline for Americans amid the pandemic and who remain steadfast on renewing the benefit in its full amount at least through the new year. Top economists have warned that the recent lapse in the benefit could lead to a sharp drop-off in household spending, which could have a detrimental effect on the still struggling economy, The Wall Street Journal reports.
As negotiations continue, previous reports have suggested that the president opposes extending the benefit. However, it is unclear if his attitude towards it has at all changed as the deadline to pass further legislation nears.