With a second stimulus check on the way, Senate Republicans and the White House are not looking to provide a short-term extension to the $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit in March's CARES Act as they work on the next stimulus package. The benefit, which ended this week, has placed Republicans in a predicament as they have questioned the need for the federal unemployment benefit, with some even suggesting it should not be included in the next package at all.
Republicans were talking about a short-term extension of the benefit, but it does not seem close to coming to fruition. "We're really trying to look at trying to make sure that we have a comprehensive bill that deals with the issues," White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Wednesday, reports The Hill. "Any short-term extensions would defy the history of Congress, which would indicate that it would just be met with another short-term extension." Meadows went on to explain that the unemployment benefit should be handled in the larger coronavirus stimulus package, not as separate legislation. "We're optimistic that we can continue to find a real solution and hopefully reaching a compromise," he said.
Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the Senate Majority Whip, agreed that no one is interested in a short-term patch. "Ideally having that hard deadline next week gives us a reason to try and get this done, puts pressure on the process," he said. "I don't think anybody's going to want to punt to a short-term solution."
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa was not involved in the talks but said he did not see a need for an extension since he believed the unemployed would get the benefits for the weeks they missed if the program is continued. "If it's continued in one form or another, nobody's going to lose out on a week or two. They're going to get the money," he said.
The federal unemployment benefit was included in the CARES Act. Democrats have supported the program, even extending it to the end of the year in the HEROES Act passed by House Democrats in May. However, Republicans have argued that the program is a "disincentive" for low-wage workers to find jobs. They have floated ideas from lowering the benefit to $200 to $400 a week or even dropping it altogether. According to CNBC, about 25 million Americans received the $600 weekly benefit.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters the next stimulus package will not be presented until next week. "The [Trump] administration has requested additional time to review the fine details, but we will be laying down the proposal early next week," McConnell said Thursday, reports CNBC. "We have an agreement in principle on the shape of the package."