A handful of Republican senators on Wednesday threatened to delay the $2 trillion coronavirus spending bill over what they referred to as a “drafting error.”
The Senate was expected to vote on the bill, which came after days of negotiations between Senate leaders and the White House, later Wednesday.
In a statement, Sens. Tim Scott, R-S.C., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said: “A massive drafting error in the current version of the coronavirus relief legislation could have devastating consequences: Unless this bill is fixed, there is a strong incentive for employees to be laid off instead of going to work.”
“This isn’t an abstract, philosophical point — it’s an immediate, real-world problem,” they continued. “If the federal government accidentally incentivizes layoffs, we risk life-threatening shortages in sectors where doctors, nurses, and pharmacists are trying to care for the sick, and where growers and grocers, truckers and cooks are trying to get food to families’ tables.”
They added, “We must sadly oppose the fast-tracking of this bill until this text is addressed, or the Department of Labor issues regulatory guidance that no American would earn more by not working than by working.”
The senators are slated to hold a 2 p.m. press conference and will be joined by Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla.
James Wegmann, Sasse’s communications director, told NBC News in a statement: “The way the current federal unemployment benefit formula is structured, the bill will create a perverse incentive to sever the employer/employee relationship.”
“This threatens dangerous supply chain problems in critical industries,” he continued. “Sasse, Scott, and Graham are working on an amendment to fix this by making sure that the maximum unemployment benefit is 100% of someone’s salary so that people get the benefits they need and supply chains keep running.”
Although the full text of the bill is not yet known, lawmakers indicated Tuesday that it would include the initial GOP proposal for direct cash payments to Americans.
Unemployment insurance would also be significantly bolstered for four months by increasing payments and extending the benefit to those who typically do not qualify, such as gig economy workers, furloughed employees and freelancers. Specifically, the bill would increase the maximum unemployment benefit that a state gives to a person by $600 per week and according to Schumer, “ensures that laid-off workers, on average, will receive their full pay for four months.”