With the federal government’s $600-a-week boost in unemployment set to expire this weekend, the GOP has put together a first draft of a new stimulus that would likely cut that amount by hundreds.
On Thursday, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell was expected to unveil a $1 trillion package which includes another round of $1,200 stimulus checks but severely cuts back unemployment from the $600-per-week boost it’s giving to workers right now. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC on Thursday that the GOP is seeking to reduce the benefit from a flat $600 per week to 70 percent of wage replacement for what workers were making before they lost their job, which would mean a cutback of at least several hundred dollars per week.
Meanwhile, 1.4 million people filed jobless claims last week, the first time the number of claims has jumped in nearly four months and indicating that the economic impact of the pandemic on workers is far from over.
Notably, the Republican bill reportedly won’t include a payroll tax cut that had been pushed by the White House but had virtually no support in the Senate GOP caucus. The bill is also likely to not address the coming housing crisis, when the federal eviction moratorium expires this week, according to the Associated Press.
Senate GOP leaders and the White House had on Wednesday evening announced they’d tentatively reached an agreement on an opening $1 trillion offer to House Democrats for more coronavirus relief. “We’ve now had three days of meetings, and we are now completely on the same page,” Mnuchin said Wednesday. “We are all in good shape.”
House Democrats already passed their own $3 trillion follow-up to the CARES Act in May, which Republicans have dismissed as an unworkable messaging bill. But there’s no guarantee that the right wing of the GOP will buy even their own party’s opening offer — Sen. Rand Paul, for instance, was apoplectic about the potential cost in a Twitter thread following a Tuesday caucus meeting.
Sen. Ted Cruz, meanwhile, told the Hill he was a “hell no” on McConnell’s proposal and said that since it was just an opening offer, it would undoubtedly grow in cost. “This is the swamp in a feeding frenzy,” Cruz said. “Everybody’s lobbyist has their hand out, saying, ‘Look, if you’re spending trillions of dollars, I want to get some.’ And it’s not right.”
Earlier this month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate was 11.1 percent and that 17.8 million people were jobless, though the number of employed people as a share of the U.S. adult population was 54.6 percent, meaning nearly half of the U.S. population (45 percent) is without a job right now. (In contrast, the employment-population ration in February was 61 percent.)
For their part, Senate Democrats, who could very well take control of the chamber in November, seized on the dysfunction in the Republican caucus.
“The Republican Party is so disorganized, chaotic and unprepared that they can barely cobble together a partisan bill in their own conference,” Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer told the New York Times.
Cover: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks during a House Small Business Committee hearing on oversight of the Small Business Administration and Department of Treasury pandemic programs on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, July 17, 2020. (Erin Scott/Pool via AP)