In a private lunch with Republican senators on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Donald Trump voiced his opposition to continuing the $600 weekly increase to unemployment insurance Congress passed to help workers who lost jobs thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Washington Postreported.
Trump is following the lead of Senate Republicans, who have been opposed to the payments since Congress first passed them in March. All but two GOP senators voted to strip the $600 weekly unemployment insurance boost from the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package, though their effort failed.
Republicans at the time said it's wrong to pay some workers more in unemployment benefits than they were receiving before the pandemic hit, claiming it would discourage Americans from seeking work.
"You can extend some assistance, but you don't want to pay people more unemployed than they'd make working. You should never make more than your actual wages," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) — who led the unsuccessful effort to strip the unemployment insurance boost from the relief package — told the Post.
Graham also told the Post that Trump "agrees that that is hurting the economic recovery."
Rather than worrying about increased unemployment insurance, economists have expressed concern that stopping the increased payments would actually hurt the economic recovery. Currently, the increased payments are scheduled to expire at the end of July.
The Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan economic think-tank, is calling for continued support for unemployed Americans. "These provisions are very important and will help millions of people," it wrote in an April 7 blog post.
Ultimately, Trump urged Senate Republicans at the meeting not to rush to pass more coronavirus relief aid, despite the fact that more than 36 million Americans are out of work, with experts predicting that the unemployment rate could surpass Great Depression levels.
Congressional Republicans have been following that lead, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy saying Tuesday that he doesn't "see the need" for more aid. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also said he doesn't feel any "urgency" to pass more relief.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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