Democrats knock Republicans for 'disarray' over expiring unemployment benefits

Pelosi: "Their disarray is a great, great damage to America's working families."

July 24, 2020, 4:43 PM

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer blasted Republicans on Friday, blaming their "months-long disarray and delay" for a lapse in federal unemployment benefits which are set to expire in the coming days.

Congress had agreed to provide a $600-per-week increase of unemployment benefits as part of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed in March, but those are set to expire July 31.

"This weekend, millions of Americans will lose their Unemployment Insurance, will be at risk of being evicted from their homes, and could be laid off by state and local government, and there is only one reason: Republicans have been dithering for months while America’s crisis deepens," the Democratic leaders said in a joint statement on Friday.

"We had expected to be working throughout this weekend to find common ground on the next COVID response package. It is simply unacceptable that Republicans have had this entire time to reach consensus among themselves and continue to flail. Time is of the essence and lives are being lost," the congressional leaders said.

House Democrats passed an additional $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill in May which would extend the federal unemployment benefits through the end of the year, but the Republican-led Senate refused to take the measure up.

Senate Republican leaders have yet to unveil their own proposal after days of discussions with the White House and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

PHOTO: Chief of Staff to President Donald Trump, Mark Meadows, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin speak to the media about the next coronavirus stimulus package in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, July 23, 2020.
Chief of Staff to President Donald Trump, Mark Meadows, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin speak to the media about the next coronavirus stimulus package after meeting with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, July 23, 2020.
Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA via Shutterstock

"You can't eat retroactively," Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., said at a press conference Friday, adding that fixing the lapse of unemployment insurance and giving money to people after the fact doesn’t work when needs are immediate.

Davis said that blocking unemployment insurance is a decision based in racism.

"I'm not going to mince words: a Republican failure to continue the $600 a week federal unemployment supplement would represent a racially discriminatory action. Period. Any way you cut it, anyway you look at it," Davis said, adding that African Americans and Latinos make up a disproportionate share of those suffering the economic and health impacts of the public health crisis.

Democratic leaders are strongly opposed to a short-term extension of those unemployment benefits. Pelosi adamantly and repeatedly suggested she would not support something short term and insisted on passing a larger package.

"I would be very much averse to separating this out and lose all leverage," Pelosi said Friday. "It’s a fraudulent tactic...when it comes to meeting the needs of America’s working families."

Senate Republicans and the White House appeared within inches of securing a proposal on stimulus legislation but those talks fell through at the eleventh hour late this week, all but ensuring that millions of Americans will see those boosted unemployment benefits disappear until Congress can reach agreement.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks in a hallway on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 23, 2020.
Erin Scott/Reuters

Late Thursday night, ABC News obtained a draft document of the Republican stimulus proposal which is now expected to be released early next week.

Multiple sources confirmed to ABC that the draft proposal was being circulated to members on Thursday, though they cautioned that the contents within the proposal would likely change over the weekend.

The draft closely mirrors what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell outlined in remarks laid out on the Senate floor Thursday on what GOP leadership and the White House are negotiating, including providing $105 billion for schools, with at least part of the funding contingent on schools reopening doors in the coming months.

The draft legislation would authorize a targeted second round of Paycheck Protecting Program loans for small businesses and would give businesses a tax credit for employee retention and tax deductions for purchases of tests and personal protective equipment.

Republicans are also proposing an extension of the enhanced unemployment benefits but at a far-reduced rate, equivalent to 70% of a person’s income before he or she was laid off.

"We aren't going to extend it on the base wage replacement, it's approximately 70% of wage replacement. We're dealing with the mechanical issues associated with that," Mnuchin told reporters Thursday.

The draft proposal also includes a second round of stimulus checks for Americans but the amount of the payment and eligibility criteria are still to be determined.

ABC News' Katherine Faulders contributed to this report.