Four Republican senators are warning that they will oppose the $2 trillion coronavirus response package unless a “massive drafting error” in the legislation, which they say would create an incentive for employers to lay off employees, is fixed.
“You want to destroy what’s left of the economy? Pass it the way it’s written,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in a press conference. “If you want to help people, pay them their wages, but don’t pay them more not to work.”
The concern from Sens. Graham, Tim Scott, R-S.C., Ben Sasse, R-Neb., and Rick Scott, R-Fla., is that the current version could pay workers more in unemployment benefits than they’re currently making, by sticking a $600 per week payment on top of ordinary benefits that are calculated as a percentage of income. This could disrupt the labor market further, the lawmakers warn.
But with the legislation nearing approval by the chamber, the Republican critics are warning that the text as written could incentivize layoffs, which they say could in turn lead to “life-threatening shortages” in health care and the food supply chain.
In the press conference, Sen. Tim Scott gave the example of someone in South Carolina making $20 an hour, or $800 a week, who could get up to $326 of unemployment benefits in the state, followed by another $600 a week in the federal benefit, meaning they would be earning more than their normal salary.
The lawmakers had indicated that they would oppose the fast-tracking of the bill if the error was not fixed.