Chances for a planned Senate vote Wednesday on a historic $2 trillion relief package in response to the coronavirus pandemic appeared to dwindle as senators threatened to delay it over a key unemployment insurance proposal.
Earlier in the day, four Republican senators — Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott of South Carolina, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Rick Scott of Florida — threatened to oppose the chamber’s push to pass the rescue package through fast-track procedures. 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.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., then said he would delay the bill if his GOP colleagues did not drop their opposition, calling it an “outrage” to prevent Americans from getting emergency unemployment insurance. In a statement, he said he is “prepared to put a hold on this bill” to lobby for tighter restrictions on companies receiving aid from a taxpayer pool of $500 billion.
The prospect of an impasse in the Senate appeared to hit U.S. stock indexes at the end of Wednesday’s session, as markets closed in the green but off their highs. Investors hoped Congress could quickly approve the legislation, which gives direct payments to Americans, loans to businesses large and small, and resources to states and hospitals to fight the outbreak.