The Senate shot down an amendment to cap unemployment benefits for workers Wednesday, setting up a fast track vote for the full $2.2 trillion economic relief package to combat the impact of the coronavirus.
The motion failed on a 48-48 vote. It needed 60 votes to pass.
Several senators missed votes because they were self-quarantined.
Senate Majority Whip John Thune, South Dakota Republican, was one of the latest to miss the votes; he flew home Wednesday because he wasn’t feeling well.
His spokesman said Mr. Thune consulted with the attending Senate physician and his family doctor, and was told, based on how he was feeling, that “there was no need for additional action at this point and [he] was encouraged to continue self-monitoring.”
Sens. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Tim Scott of South Carolina, Rick Scott of Florida and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina argued that, as written, the bolstered unemployment program could provide more money than some workers earn in their paychecks.
Their amendment would have capped at 100% of a worker’s paycheck.
With its failure, lawmakers have paved the way for a speedy passage of the full $2 trillion package.
It will give $500 billion in direct payments to the American public, bolster unemployment insurance with a surge of $250 billion, provide $500 billion in loans to big businesses, and creates a $350 billion loan program for small businesses.
It also funnels $130 billion into the stretched-thin healthcare system to get more resources and equipment to those directly fighting the disease.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will give members 24 hours to review and debate the bill before they take action on the floor, likely via a voice vote if all members accept that.
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