“I encourage the House to pass this vital legislation and send the bill to my desk for signature without delay,” Trump said during a White House press conference Wednesday night.
Hours earlier, a mutiny emerged among Senate Republicans who objected to a $600 per week boost in unemployment benefits.
The boost means that in some states unemployment pay would exceed 100% of a worker’s prior salary, creating a “strong incentive for employees to be laid off instead of going to work,” the senators said in a statement.
The rebellion upended a meticulously crafted deal and included Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Tim Scott (R-SC), Rick Scott (R-Fla), and Ben Sasse (R-Neb). The group urged an amendment to change the amount, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said he agreed.
In response, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate, vowed to throw up procedural hurdles with a “hold” to the entire package if the unemployment language was weakened.
Trump and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, the lead White House negotiator for the deal, spoke with some of the disgruntled senators Wednesday, Mnuchin said at the press conference.
Mnuchin said Republican critics misunderstood the reason for the change — which Democrats led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) pushed to give furloughed workers 100 percent of their pay for four months.
“Let me just explain the issue,” Mnuchin said at the press conference. “Most of these state systems have technology that’s 30 years old or older. So if we had the ability to customize this with much more specifics, we would have. This was the only way we could assure that the states could get money out quickly in a fair way. So we use $600 across the board. And I don’t think it’ll create incentives. Most Americans, what they want is they want to keep their jobs.”
Mnuchin said he still hoped for a Senate vote on the deal Wednesday night — an increasingly unlikely scenario.
Trump, expressing his interest in a “great signing” ceremony, encouraged people to see the overpayment as a positive.
“The one good thing when you think about that, people would actually get more money,” Trump said. “But we don’t want to give a disincentive.”
The massive stimulus bill also includes checks of $1,200 for every adult earning up to $75,000, with pay phased out for earners up to $99,000. For each child, taxpayers would get $500 from the bill.