Speed Reads

last-ditch effort

Senate Republicans make push for standalone $200 unemployment boost

Republicans are stopping their push for a new coronavirus stimulus bill — at least for now.

The current iteration of the CARES Act expires Friday, and with it a $600/week boost to unemployment insurance that's been in place since the beginning of the pandemic. But disagreements both within the GOP and across the aisle led Senate Republicans to refocus just on passing a standalone unemployment boost on Thursday to avoid a lapse in benefits, Politico reports.

After returning to Congress last week, Republicans and the White House struggled to agree on if they'd extend the unemployment payments and by how much, as well as several other parts of the next stimulus bill. Democrats unquestionably wanted the $600 boost continued, but Republicans tried to pare the Democrats' $3 trillion-plus bill down to $1 trillion.

Discussions of a reduced $200/week boost started among Senate Republicans earlier this week, and transformed into the basis of a proposal from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) "gaining steam" as talks continued Thursday, Politico writes. Johnson's suggestion would enhance unemployment benefits by up to 66 percent of low wages, or $200 per week, sources familiar with the strategy say. The standalone bill is intended to "put pressure on Senate Democrats" as the current boost nears expiration, Politico continues.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) blamed each other for the impasse on Thursday. But no matter whose fault it is, tens of millions of unemployed Americans will be left without any aid boost if both parties don't get it together by Friday.