Three Republican senators are demanding an immediate fix to a drafting error in the coronavirus stimulus package that they say encourages layoffs and risks life-threatening consequences to critical industries. Their objection brought a warning from Sen. and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who suggested he might take steps that stall passage if they continued with their demands.
Sens. Tim Scott of South Carolina, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina were the Republican senators who made their demands on Wednesday.
“A massive drafting error in the current version of the coronavirus relief legislation could have devastating consequence: Unless the bill if fixed, there is a strong incentive for employees to be laid off instead of going to work,” they said in a statement.
“This isn’t an abstract, philosophical point – it’s an immediate real-world problem 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.
“This isn’t who we are as Americans; this isn’t what we do in a crisis. We must sadly oppose the fast-tracking of this bill until this text is addressed, or the Department of Labor issue regulatory guidance that no American would earn more by not working than by working.”
The senators’ statement was tweeted by Roll Call’s Jennifer Shutt.
The White House and Senate leaders had announced agreement early Wednesday on a $2 trillion emergency bill to rush aid to workers, businesses and a healthcare system hit hard by the virus outbreak.
In a late development, Senator Sanders was threatening to stall passage of the entire bill unless the trio dropped their objections to the unemployment provision.
“In my view, it would be an outrage to prevent working-class Americans to receive the emergency unemployment assistance included in this legislation,” Sanders said in a statement posted to social media. “Unless these Republican Senators drop their objections, I am prepared to put a hold on this bill until stronger conditions are imposed on the $500 billion corporate welfare fund to make sure that any corporation receiving financial assistance under this legislation does not lay off workers, cut wages or benefits, ship jobs overseas, or pay workers poverty wages.”
As reported by Fox News, a lone senator’s objection could keep the Senate from quick passage via unanimous consent, though it could still pass the measure by voice or roll call vote. Fox said lawmakers appear to be leaning toward voice vote, determined by which side, aye or nay, is loudest.
Graham lashed out at Sanders via Twitter: “Only in Senator @BernieSanders world does it make sense to pay people more NOT to work than TO work,” he tweeted. “I am all for making peoples salaries whole. However, I am not for increasing people’s salary through the unemployment insurance system.”
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