Some Republican lawmakers have a big problem with the Senate’s emergency coronavirus legislation, which improves unemployment benefits for millions of people being laid off during the pandemic: They think Americans won’t want to go back to work.
“A massive drafting error in the current version of the coronavirus relief legislation could have devastating consequences: Unless this bill is fixed, there is a strong incentive for employees to be laid off instead of going to work,” GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Rick Scott (Fla.), Tim Scott (S.C.) and Ben Sasse (Neb.) said Wednesday in a statement, according to RawStory.
The four senators proposed adding an amendment that would limit unemployment benefits to 100% of a worker’s salary.
Graham said he believes “very few people would choose work over unemployment benefits that provided moderately more money.”
But as the senators worried about the terrible things that might happen if Americans had enough money to pay their bills and expenses, a reporter asked a question that suggested their concern was a bit out of touch.
“I don’t know how to ask this without sounding like I’m being a smartass, and I’m not,” the reporter said. “But do you understand how bad the optics are to have probably the wealthiest person in the Senate potentially holding up this bill for a couple hundred bucks for some of the poorest people in this country?”
The wealthy man in question ― Rick Scott, who is estimated to worth $255 million ― responded with a variation of Calvin Coolidge’s old line that “the business of America is business.”
“I want to make sure that our small businesses, all of our businesses, including our hospitals and nursing homes and everybody can make sure people want to come to work,” he said, adding that the new unemployment benefits are meant to supplement unemployment insurance already paid by the states.
Sasse jumped in and attempted to defend Scott, suggesting people were just jealous of his wealth.
“I get it. Everybody in the room ― everybody in the country ― wishes they had Rick Scott’s bank account,” he said.
Sasse then claimed the issue over the so-called “drafting error” was principled and not about rich politicians trying to keep lower-income Americans from getting funds to pay bills during a difficult time.
“If you go into any coffee shop in Nebraska ... and you say, ‘Do we as a people think what America wants to do is say, “Let’s have the federal government build a program that says we want to incentivize severing people’s work relationships?”’ Hell no!” he said.
You can see the complete interaction below.
But the GOP senators’ position that there was a “drafting error” is not true, CNN congressional correspondent Manu Raju later explained.
“This [agreement was] negotiated by Republican senators and the White House and Democratic senators, who believe that it is essentially necessary,” Raju said. “They don’t think that it would lead to layoffs. In fact, this is a temporary enhanced unemployment benefit for those that do lose their job.”
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