U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday rejected some House Democrats’ call for voting on standalone legislation to extend enhanced federal unemployment insurance benefits that expired at the end of July as it would undermine negotiations on the next COVID-19 relief bill.
“I don’t think, strategically, it’s where we should go right now because the Republicans would like to pass something like that and say, ‘forget about it.’ Forget about state and local, forget about our investments in stopping the virus, forget about other initiatives,” Pelosi said during an interview on “PBS NewsHour.”
“Because imagine the Republicans could take that into the Senate, put poison pills all over it, and it’s hard to vote against extending unemployment benefits,” Pelosi said, adding she personally supports the idea of tying unemployment insurance payments to economic triggers like the unemployment rate.
Pelosi’s remarks came after more than 100 House Democrats on Wednesday signed a letter calling on the leadership to schedule a vote this weekend to extend the extra 600-U.S.-dollar weekly unemployment benefits and establish unemployment insurance automatic stabilizers for the duration of the pandemic.
“While there are various proposals to extend unemployment benefits, the only way to provide financial relief to millions of Americans without being subject to political hurdles, is to enact automatic stabilizers for unemployment benefits,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.
“By passing legislation that ties unemployment benefits to economic triggers, we can ensure that aid is restored to those who need it and prevent future lapses as long as the economy tells us aid is needed,” the letter said.
While the extra federal unemployment benefits for roughly 30 million Americans expired at the end of July, Democratic lawmakers and the Trump administration remain deadlocked over the next COVID-19 relief package, with both sides blaming each other for making little progress.
As negotiations stall, President Donald Trump signed a series of executive orders to extend certain COVID-19 economic relief, but analysts believe that they are unlikely to provide a meaningful boost to the overall economy.
The number of initial jobless claims in the United States rose back above the 1 million mark last week, casting a shadow on the recovery of a labor market ravaged by the COVID-19 crisis.
In the week ending Aug. 15, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits increased by 135,000 to reach 1.1 million, the Labor Department said Thursday in a report.