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Senate Democrats skeptical of extending unemployment benefits by $ 300

“I will never vote for another extension as long as I know that with vaccines there is no excuse for no one to get vaccinated,” said the moderate Democrat. “I understand that there are millions of jobs in America that we cannot fill right now. So we need people to go back to work. There are more and more people who understand that they are in trouble. “

Manchin has previously expressed hesitation over the benefits. In a vote earlier this year, he only supported extending the extra money until mid-July, but he ultimately voted in favor of Biden’s US bailout in March. Now, Manchin is far from alone in his concerns, and his opposition to another expansion suggests the path forward for the added benefit may be steep, if not downright impossible.

Senate Republicans are not expected to support another extension. So without Manchin’s vote, Democrats couldn’t pass the added benefit through reconciliation. There is also some hesitation among moderates in the House. When asked if House Democrats have the voices to expand the benefits, a moderate Democratic lawmaker replied, “God, I hope not.”

Business groups, Republicans and some Democrats say the perks discourage work by providing more money than some people earn at their jobs. The White House retorts that companies must offer higher wages and safer working conditions to keep workers coming back.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said there had been “report after report” that it was “not accurate” that the benefits discourage work. He cited the need to keep children and the reduction in public transportation service in many cities as several of the factors affecting the job market. Cutting benefits like Republican governors had done would leave many people with no income, he said.

Several economists also point to a Yale study from last year which found “no evidence” that the initial $ 600 increase in federal unemployment benefits from last year CARES Act increased layoffs or discouraged workers. to return to their jobs over time.

In interviews Tuesday, several Senate Democrats said they were adopting a wait-and-see strategy on the issue, adding that they would have to assess the economic situation this summer and noting potential regional differences. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), who caucuses with Democrats, puts it this way: Congress should take a “conditions-not-time-based” approach to expanding benefits.

Some Republican governors have already announced they will end the program before its expiration date as vaccinations continue and the number of virus cases declines. In Montana, for example, Republican Governor Greg Gianforte will end participation in the federal benefit at the end of June.

“I don’t think that’s unreasonable,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). “But it’s Montana, and I can’t tell you if the same would apply to Vermont or Nevada.”

Senator Jeanne Shaheen (DN.H.) echoed this sentiment, noting that in New Hampshire “the unemployment rate is pretty low at this point” and “if this continues it probably shouldn’t be extended.”

But senators have also warned that the issue is not on their radar just yet, as the deadline is not until early September.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va) suggested he was open to changing the benefit, although he acknowledged that there were not yet “active discussions” on its extension. Help from Congress has been “generous” during a “difficult time” for Americans, he said. “But that doesn’t mean that now that we’re hopefully closer to the end than the beginning, we can’t make adjustments.”

Burgess Everett, Sarah Ferris, and Rebecca Rainey contributed to this report.

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