GOP stimulus plan contains zero dollars in extra federal unemployment benefits

(Yahoo News) - Mitch McConnell trashed Democrats for delaying aid to unemployed Americans — but the proposal he's supports includes no extra federal unemployment benefits and limited jobless aid.

GOP stimulus plan contains zero dollars in extra federal unemployment benefits

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell assailed Democrats on Wednesday morning for holding up aid to unemployed Americans. But the Republican economic rescue package he has touted contains no additional federal unemployment benefits and limited jobless aid overall.

During a Senate floor speech, the Kentucky Republican said the GOP "made one offer after another" in the summer and fall to deliver badly-needed relief to the country.

"There are Americans who've been thrown out of work through no fault of their own who are watching federal aid programs tick toward expiration in a few weeks - even though neither side in Congress opposes extending them!" he said.

"But the Speaker of the House and the Senate Democratic Leader have been just as consistent," he continued, referring to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. "At every turn, they have delayed, deflected, moved the goalposts, and made the huge number of places where Congress agrees into a hostage of the few places we do not." 

However, the proposal that McConnell introduced last week would include no extra money for federal unemployment benefits. It was a sharp change in position from another plan he unveiled twice in September and October, which contained a $300 federal supplement to state unemployment checks.

The latest Republican proposal also extended base state benefits and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for gig workers for only an extra month, until the end of January. Assistance is set to lapse for nearly 12 million people the day after Christmas if Congress fails to renew it.

McConnell's office did not immediately return a request for comment.

By contrast, Democrats have long pushed to renew the $600 federal unemployment benefit that expired in late July. Pelosi and Schumer now support the $908 billion bipartisan framework which restores the federal weekly jobless payments to $300.

Coronavirus relief talks are entering a volatile new phase. On Tuesday, McConnell offered to set aside GOP demands to include a liability shield that would protect businesses against coronavirus-related lawsuits in exchange for Democrats dropping aid to state and local governments, both fiercely contested issues.

But Democrats rejected the move and Schumer accused McConnell of attempting to "sabotage" the ongoing bipartisan negotiations.

The White House later jumped in with a $916 billion stimulus offer of its own on Tuesday evening which included both state aid and a liability shield. It also contained $600 stimulus checks for Americans, though it significantly reduced unemployment aid. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the package was "reviewed" by McConnell, and it drew strong backing from House minority leader Kevin McCarthy.

It was a nonstarter for Democrats. Pelosi and Schumer dismissed the proposal, calling it "unacceptable" for its cuts to unemployment assistance.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of senators circulated details of its $908 billion proposal on Wednesday. Negotiators have trying to turn it into legislative text for the past week, and a copy of the six-page summary was obtained by Business Insider.

It would renew a $300 federal unemployment benefit for 16 weeks from the end of December to April 2021, along with a federal program aiding jobless gig workers for the same amount of time. But there were sparse details on state aid and a liability shield. The summary only said there was an agreement for "good-faith negotiations" on both matters.

"We need to finish up today," Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, an architect of the compromise package, told reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. "Hopefully they'll finish up state and local and finish up liability. We're all talking."