Senate Democrats Cut Deal With Manchin For Lower Unemployment Benefits After 9-Hour Pause


Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Friday announced a deal with the Senate’s Democratic leadership on an unemployment insurance amendment to the coronavirus relief package after the Senate ground to a complete halt for nine hours while both parties wooed him to support their competing proposals.


Manchin and Senate Democrats agreed to send jobless workers $300 per week, on top of benefits offered by their state unemployment system, until Sept. 6, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told reporters.

That’s $100 per week less than the unemployment benefit passed by the House.

The deal would also provide a tax break of $10,200 to those on unemployment benefits in households making less than $150,000 a year.

The development comes after Democrats halted the voting process in order to persuade Manchin to back an amendment that would have extended benefits to Oct. 4 and had no cap on the tax break.

A group of Republicans led by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) tried to sell Manchin on an amendment ending unemployment benefits in July and providing no tax break, with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) telling reporters Manchin would back that proposal.

Manchin came to the agreement after a lengthy meeting with Senate Majority Chuck Schumer.


“We have reached a compromise that enables the economy to rebound quickly while also protecting those receiving unemployment benefits from being hit with an unexpected tax bill next year,” Manchin said in a statement.


Wyden, a progressive who had pushed for far more expansive benefits, told reporters “this has not been my first choice” but blasted Portman’s proposal for its “arbitrary” cutoff date.


The House passed its own version of the relief bill on a tight party-line vote last week. That bill included $400 per week in unemployment benefits instead of $300, and unlike the Senate bill, it included a minimum wage hike to $15 per hour. Some more progressive members of the House could prove skeptical of the Senate’s changes, with Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) openly questioning on Friday whether she’ll support the bill in its final form.


Congressional Democrats are aiming to pass a massive economic relief package that includes a third round of direct stimulus payments for most U.S. households, extended benefits for jobless workers and aid to state and local governments. Biden must sign the bill by March 14 to avoid a lapse in the jobless benefits passed in the last stimulus package. The effort has been mired in negotiations as Senate Democrats fight to win over their caucus’ more moderate members, all of whom will need to vote in favor of the bill for it to pass. Over the last two weeks, eligibility for $1,400 stimulus payments has narrowed, weekly unemployment benefits have shrunk, and plans to include a minimum wage increase were shuttered after a Senate advisor decided it would need a 60-vote majority to pass under Senate rules.