114 House Democrats Push for Weekend Vote on Jobless Benefits Extension

August 21, 2020 by Dan McCue
A Detail of the U.S. Capitol, Aug. 5, 2020. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – As the House convenes for a rare Saturday session, over 100 Democrats are urging Speaker Nancy Pelosi to open the floor to consideration of a bill to extend an emergency bonus to unemployment benefits due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In a letter sent to the Speaker and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Tuesday, 114 members of the caucus urged the leaders to take advantage of the House being in session to reinstate the additional $600 per week unemployment benefit that lapsed on July 31.

The proposed vehicle to do it, tying the benefit to an automatic stabilizer that would phase the amount out as unemployment rates fall and end it altogether when the coronavirus pandemic comes to an end, has already been endorsed by the New Democrat Coalition.

According to the coalition, the additional $600 in weekly unemployment assistance has been a lifeline for the 30 million Americans who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

Despite its importance to the nation’s families and economies, the payment has lapsed and no deal is in sight in terms of a new relief bill.

The New Democrats say tying the payment to the health of the economy will allow the payments to continue without the threat of their being held hostage by the political brinkmanship.

New Democrat Coalition Chair Derek Kilmer, of Washington, Vice Chair Scott Peters, of California, and member Rep. Don Beyer, of Virginia, led their fellow like minded Democrats in drafting the letter to Pelosi and Hoyer.

It specifically calls for consideration of the automatic stabilizer plan, which Beyer and Kilmer have packaged as the Worker Relief and Security Act.

The bicameral legislation would extend the $600 weekly federal unemployment compensation benefits through the duration of the national COVID-19 public health emergency, provide for unlimited unemployment coverage weeks through January 2021, and then continue providing enhanced compensation and additional coverage weeks determined by national and state total unemployment rates. 

While Pelosi and Hoyer have previously endorsed extending the enhanced benefits, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who were negotiating on behalf of the Republicans, rejected the continued payments as too generous, saying they create a disincentive for the unemployed to return to work.

Kilmer, Peters, Beyer and the other Democrats pressing for a vote on Saturday contend the automatic stabilizers should erase those concerns.

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