Politics

Senate set to vote on coronavirus stimulus bill Wednesday night

Key Points
  • The Senate is planning to vote on a massive $2 trillion relief bill at midnight, after a last-minute fight over proposed unemployment provision delayed proceedings on Wednesday, people familiar with the situation told CNBC.
  • They argued a proposal to add $600 per week to unemployment insurance for up to four months, a core provision of the near-final legislation could encourage companies to lay off workers and Americans to stay unemployed, urging a vote to cap the aid. 
  • Earlier in the day, four Republican senators, including Ben Sasse of Nebraska, threatened to hold up the bill over their objections. 
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White House and Senate strike deal on historic $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill

The Senate is planning to vote on a massive $2 trillion relief bill late Wednesday or early Thursday, after a last-minute fight over a proposed unemployment provision delayed proceedings on Wednesday, people familiar with the situation told CNBC.

The Senate announced it had arrived at a deal early Wednesday morning, after days of bitter partisan divide. Leaders hoped to fast track the deal to President Donald Trump's desk.

But as the Senate worked through finalizing the text of the bill, four Republican senators — Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott of South Carolina, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Rick Scott of Florida — voiced their opposition. They argued a proposal to add $600 per week to unemployment insurance for up to four months — a core provision of the near-final legislation — could encourage companies to lay off workers and Americans to stay unemployed. They have urged a vote to cap the aid. 

Sasse filed an amendment to the bill Wednesday evening. The amendment, which the senator also filed behalf of his three GOP colleagues, says weekly unemployment aid may not "exceed the amount of the individual's average weekly wages for an appropriate period" prior to having received it.

Still, the amendment may end up as mostly symbolic. Tim Scott said he would still back the legislation but wanted to have the chance to vote on an amendment. He said "I plan to support this legislation tonight, but I do want to fix it first." 

It still has yet to get past the Democrat-led House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier Wednesday criticized the GOP senators for their opposition to the legislation.

"Please don't resent our lowest-paid workers in America for getting $600," she said. 

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Bernie Sanders threatens to put hold on virus bill over unemployment aid fight with GOP senators