McConnell open to extending $600 unemployment boost in coronavirus stimulus deal

By Megan Henney | Fox News

Democratic leaders and White House officials are trying to finalize another round of emergency aid.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he could support extending the extra $600-a-week unemployment benefit in the next coronavirus relief package — so long as President Trump backs the measure.

Democratic leaders and White House officials are trying to finalize another round of emergency aid this week and hold a vote in Congress next week. If the negotiators, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, cut a deal that includes $600 jobless aid, McConnell said he would support it.

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“Wherever this thing settles between the president of the United States and his team that has to sign it into law, and the Democrats, a not-insignificant-minority in the Senate and majority in the House, is something I’m prepared to support,” McConnell told reporters during his weekly press conference. “Even if I have some problems with certain parts of it.”

Both parties are under growing pressure to reach a deal days after several CARES Act provisions, including an eviction moratorium and supplement unemployment aid, expired, dealing a major financial blow to the millions of Americans who lost their jobs during the pandemic.

One major point of contention during negotiations has been whether or not to continue boosting unemployment benefits by $600 a week. Democrats have maintained the sweetened benefits need to be extended through the end of the year and have made it a key sticking point; Republicans have argued that it disincentivizes Americans from returning to their jobs, and have instead proposed a $200-a-week replacement.

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Adding to the urgency is the Labor Department’s July jobs report, slated to be released Friday. The unemployment figures will shed light on whether a fresh round of business closures amid a spike in COVID-19 cases is dampening the nation’s economic and jobs market recovery.

Republicans arrived at the negotiating table hobbled by party infighting, with some conservatives voicing concern about the nation’s ballooning deficit, which is expected to hit $3.7 trillion in 2020, a record high, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

McConnell noted that many Republicans would likely not vote for the final stimulus legislation if it restores the unemployment aid.

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“We know this is going to be a negotiated settlement,” McConnell said. “It’s not going to produce a kumbaya moment like we had back in March and April where everybody voted aye. But the American people, in the end, need help.”

Last week, Trump appeared to endorse continuing the $600 checks, tweeting that he was “disappointed” Schumer had blocked a Republican proposal to temporarily extend the aid.

About two-thirds of workers on unemployment received more government aid than what they earned at their old job, according to a paper written by economists at the University of Chicago’s Becker Friedman Institute.

Megan Henney is a reporter for FOX Business and Fox News.

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