McConnell vows end to enhanced unemployment benefits

Burgess Everett

Mitch McConnell promised House Republicans on Wednesday that the beefed up unemployment benefits enacted earlier this spring "will not be in the next bill."

The Senate majority leader told the House GOP minority in an afternoon phone call that he is comfortable waiting to see how the nearly $3 trillion in coronavirus spending previously approved plays out before moving forward on the next relief legislation. And he told them the ultimate end-product won't look anything like House Democrats' $3 trillion package passed last week, according to a person briefed on the call.

While McConnell conceded more aid may be necessary in the coming weeks, he also repeated his insistence that liability reform be included in the next round of legislation to minimize lawsuits. And he said the $600 weekly boost in unemployment benefits won't continue — a vow he hadn't previously made.

McConnell warned against trial lawyer "vultures" ready to file lawsuits and said Republicans are "going to have to clean up the Democrats’ crazy policy that is paying people more to remain unemployed than they would earn if they went back to work," McConnell said.

The remarks amount to a hardening of McConnell's position and a dismissal of House Democrats' priorities before talks even begin. But as McConnell praised House Republicans for holding firm against Speaker Nancy Pelosi's legislation and mocked her proxy voting plan, Senate Democrats were getting opposite instructions during a midday telephone conference call.

Economist Mark Zandi told Senate Democratic committee leaders that Congress needs to extend the beefed-up unemployment insurance and move "quickly" to send more aid to states and cities. Zandi said those governments are "teetering on the financial edge," according to a person on the call, and predicted many more jobs could be lost without quicker action.

McConnell seemed unmoved a few hours later and said Congress needed to proceed deliberately on the next package.