Sen. Ben Sasse and other senators, including 2016 presidential candidates Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz, tried to amend the $2.2 trillion federal bailout bill Thursday before the Senate approved the overall bill.

Under the biggest federal spending package in history, recipients can make earn more money for the next four months when they unemployed than if they are working, Sasse said Wednesday.

Sasse and his colleagues noted that the bail-out bill provides the unemployed up to $600 a week for four months, over and above the normal state unemployment benefit of about $500 a week.

That total unemployment compensation equates to a job paying more than $50,000 a year. Critics said that will keep workers from going back to a job where they made less, even if they are needed at the business as the economy starts up again. That will leave employers critically short of labor, further slowing the recovery, they said.

The amendment, which was drafted by Sasse and his staff, would have capped a recipient’s unemployment benefit at 100% of their wages.

The motion failed on a 48-48 vote. It needed 60 votes to pass. Several senators missed votes because they were self-quarantined.

Sasse and other senators issued this joint statement at noon Wednesday:

“A massive drafting error in the current version of the coronavirus relief legislation could have devastating consequences: Unless this bill is fixed, there is a strong incentive for employees to be laid off instead of going to work.”

“This isn’t an abstract, philosophical point — it’s an immediate, real-world problem,” they said. “If the federal government accidentally incentivizes layoffs, we risk life-threatening shortages in sectors where doctors, nurses, and pharmacists are trying to care for the sick, and where growers and grocers, truckers and cooks are trying to get food to families’ tables.”

“This isn’t who we are as Americans; this isn’t what we do in a crisis,” they said. “We must sadly oppose the fast-tracking of this bill until this text is addressed, or until the Department of Labor issues regulatory guidance that no American would earn more by not working than by working.”


This report was updated at 7 p.m. Thursday. – Editor