UNANIMOUS CONSENT REQUEST; Congressional Record Vol. 166, No. 140
(Senate - August 06, 2020)

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[Pages S5245-S5251]
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                       UNANIMOUS CONSENT REQUEST

  Mr. PORTMAN. Mr. President, I think we are all a little frustrated 
right now because the negotiations on the next COVID-19 package seem to 
be at a standstill. If you talk to the negotiators and you even read 
the press accounts, which are pretty open, what they say is that they 
are deadlocked. One of the main reasons they are deadlocked is over 
this issue of unemployment insurance.
  Now, recall, back in the CARES Act, there was an extension of a 
Federal supplement to unemployment insurance. So we put in place a $600 
Federal benefit on top of the State benefits.
  At the time, there were concerns about whether that would lead to 
people on unemployment insurance getting more money than they would at 
work, and there was actually an amendment here on the Senate floor 
regarding that. Although it did not pass, I think pretty much every 
Republican supported it with that concern.
  In fact, that is what has happened. If you look at what has happened 
over the past couple of months, as the $600 has been put in place, it 
clearly has often led to people making more on unemployment insurance 
than they can make at work.
  In fact, the Congressional Budget Office, which is a nonpartisan 
group here in the U.S. Congress that analyzes some of these economic 
issues, has said that if someone is on unemployment insurance today, 
they are likely to be making substantially more than someone who is not 
on unemployment insurance. In other words, people are making more not 
to work than to work.
  CBO says: ``Roughly five of every six recipients would receive 
benefits that exceeded the weekly amounts they could expect to earn 
from work during those months'' if you were to extend this until the 
end of the year.
  In other words, they are saying that 80 percent of UI recipients 
would make more on unemployment insurance than they would have at their 
old jobs--meaning that if you followed where the Democratic negotiators 
are in keeping $600 in place until the end of the year, there would be 
an unprecedented disincentive to go to work in this country.
  I think that is widely acknowledged. The University of Chicago has a 
study that isn't quite 80 percent; it says 68 percent, though. I don't 
think anybody disputes the fact that most people on unemployment 
insurance are making more than they would if they were at work.
  When I talk to my Democratic colleagues about that, they are hearing 
the same thing I am hearing from small business owners--by the way, 
from nonprofits, from employers of all sizes and all stripes--saying 
that it is tough to get people to come back to work when they can make 
more on unemployment insurance by not working.
  I think a lot of my Democratic colleagues agree. It is good to get 
people back to work--get back to work safely, yes, and we ought to be 
sure that the employers are following the guidelines of the Centers for 
Disease Control and others. But it is good to get people back to work 
because then they are reconnected with their healthcare, if they have 
it, with their retirement savings, and with training. That connection 
to work is a positive thing, providing people with dignity and self-
respect. It comes with work, so we should all be for that.

  Yet when you see what is happening in this negotiation, this is being 
stalled because Democrats are being intransigent. They are saying 
stubbornly: We are going to stick to $600.
  Today, there was a press conference with Speaker Pelosi and 
Democratic Leader Schumer, and that is exactly what they said. Here is 
the quote: ``We have said that we are going to have $600.'' This is 
necessary.
  I know that that is not where the rank and file are here in this 
Chamber because I have talked to a number of my Democratic colleagues 
about this. They realize that the $600--even those who thought it might 
have been necessary at the time, and I voted for the package at a time 
when we had unemployment that was such a shock and so high, and people 
were in such need of immediate cash. But also I have heard, again, from 
so many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, that the $600 is 
something they are hearing about more and more back home from the 
employers who say: We can't get people back to work.
  So the $600 is something that there needs to be some flexibility on 
to come up with a smarter way to ensure that people can continue to get 
a Federal supplement because we do continue to have relatively high 
unemployment in this country. In my own State of Ohio, there is almost 
11 percent unemployment. But let's not have it be so much that people 
are incentivized not to work. That doesn't help anybody.
  There are ``Help Wanted'' signs all over my State. I was at a Ford 
plant recently, where they have 25 percent absenteeism, which they 
attribute to this issue. I have been at a lot of small businesses, 
which is where probably most of my colleagues are hearing a lot of 
concerns about the fact that they can't get people who used to work for 
them to come back, and they certainly can't hire the new people they 
need, even though they are reopening safely and doing everything they 
are supposed to do in terms of the guidelines. They are having a tough 
time getting back to work.
  There is an auto plant in Ohio where the white-collar workers are now 
working on the assembly line because they can't get enough workers who 
would normally have those jobs to work on the assembly line.
  So this is a problem right now, and I think everybody acknowledges it 
except the Democratic negotiators in this negotiation.
  Now, I don't think we are actually as far apart as the media accounts 
would suggest because there are lots of ideas out there. One idea, by 
the way, makes a lot of sense to me, and I am going to offer this in a 
moment as a resolution for the Senate to take up. I think this is the 
ultimate common sense--let's keep $600 in place for now while we 
negotiate something. Let's have an extension for another week on the 
unemployment insurance at 600 bucks just so we can negotiate something. 
What you don't want is people to fall off the cliff, and that is 
starting to happen now.
  The $600 expired last Friday. So 6 days ago it expired, and 6 days 
ago, 7 days ago, Martha McSally, a Senator from Arizona, came to this 
floor and offered this same unanimous consent request, saying: Let's 
just have 600 for another week. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, 
objected--instead, offering the $3.5 trillion package from the House. 
But he didn't respond to why we wouldn't at least give the negotiators 
a week to come up with something.
  So I am going to offer that same thing today because I do think it is 
not

[[Page S5246]]

fair to have a cliff. I don't think there should be a cliff. I think 
people should be able to have some level--but not at $600 because that 
is now understood by everybody to mean that you are disincentivizing 
work.
  Americans are a generous people. Back in 2008 and 2009, when we had 
the great recession, we also did this. By the way, we did $25 a week 
then. So for Democrats who say this is unprecedented, well, we had 10 
percent unemployment back then--very high unemployment--and we did $25. 
I think we should do a lot more than that now but not so much that 
people are making more by not working than by working.
  There are a lot of ideas out there. Again, my ideas--ideas of 
individual Members--may not be what this body chooses to use, and that 
is fine. We are not all going to get our way, but we should be able to 
come up with a compromise here.
  My idea is to have a return-to-work bonus, so that you are getting 
the 600 bucks, but you can take some of that money back with you when 
you go back to work. That would create an incentive to get people back 
to work and connect people to those businesses as we talked about and 
the importance of doing that.
  But there are other ideas as well. There is a plan that was put out 
recently by two Obama administration veterans, former Treasury 
Secretary Timothy Geithner and economic adviser Jason Furman. They 
joined with a former H.W. Bush economist Glenn Hubbard to put out a 
proposal from of the Aspen Institute, hardly a conservative group, that 
proposes that the unemployment system--not at $600 but to continue at a 
cap of $400 and have it be determined based unemployment level for the 
State.
  The way unemployment works in the States is the States have a 
benefit, and this Federal benefit is on top of it. Most States provide 
on average about 50 percent of benefits; $600 is over 100 percent. It 
is over 130 percent, in fact. So this solution--again, from two Obama 
administration economists--is that you have $400 as a cap, when 
unemployment in those States is above 15 percent and zero Federal 
supplement when the State is at 7 percent or less. It phases out 
entirely. That is one bipartisan solution that is out there. Instead of 
insisting on $600, I would hope at least there is a discussion of those 
kinds of proposals.
  Senator Romney has a proposal out there that takes the amount from 
$500 per week in August to $400 to an 80-percent wage replacement 
phasing out altogether by year-end. Senator McConnell put his proposal 
out for a $200 amount over a 2-month period as a transition and then 
goes to a percent of wages. His percent of wages is 70 percent of 
wages. Again, there is no State that is that high. The States are 40 
percent, 50 percent, 60 percent, in that range.
  So there are ideas out there, and yet the Democrats keep coming back 
again and again to this notion of: We want it all or nothing. I will 
state to my colleague from Oregon who is here on the floor, and I am 
glad he is--he did a very good job for Democrats negotiating this 
proposal. I told him about it at the time. I know he took pride on it, 
and he should have.
  But we also need now to figure out where we go, going forward. None 
of us should want people to be disincentivized from going to work. We 
should not have a situation like we have now where, again, you have the 
leaders on the Democratic side, Speaker Pelosi and Democratic Leader 
Schumer, saying, ``Today, we have said that we are going to have $600. 
This is necessary.''
  We have to be able to show some flexibility here to be able to break 
this impasse, to be able to provide for people who lost their jobs 
through no fault of their own and need some help, but not continue to 
have this policy in place that doesn't work for our economy, for small 
businesses, and for workers themselves. Let's get the politics out of 
this. Let's do something that makes sense to be able to move forward on 
this broader crisis, and I think if we can fix the unemployment 
insurance issue, we are likely to get there
  Mr. SULLIVAN. Will my colleague from Ohio yield?
  Mr. PORTMAN. I would be happy to yield.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Alaska.
  Mr. SULLIVAN. Mr. President, I want to thank the Senator from Ohio 
for his great leadership on this and so many other issues. I see my 
colleague from Oregon is on the floor as well.
  I want to talk about an issue that Senator Portman just touched on, 
but it is really the key to what is going on here, and that it is good 
faith. Are negotiations happening in good faith? Or are they not?
  Sometimes, it is hard to tell. Sometimes, there is posturing, but, 
last week at this time, Senator Portman, Senator McSally, and myself 
were on the floor with regard to discussing Senator McSally's very 
simple unanimous consent resolution which said as we negotiate--
hopefully, in good faith--the difference between what we have put 
forward--the HEALS Act--and the Speaker Pelosi bill from early May--a 
bit of a stale $4 trillion bill, one-third of which has nothing to do 
with the pandemic--but as we are trying to negotiate in good faith, 
let's move forward with an extension of unemployment so people who are 
hurting can continue to rely on it. That happens all the time in the 
Senate.
  So what happened? The minority leader came down to the Senate floor 
and blocked it. He blocked it, and his response was: I am going to 
block this 1-week extension unless the Republicans take the entire $4-
trillion Heroes Act. That is what he said. If you are watching or 
paying attention, that is the definition of not negotiating in good 
faith, and every Senator knows it. All 100 of us know it. That was not 
a good faith maneuver.
  What I predicted was the minority leader of the U.S. Senate, despite 
that maneuver which is going to hurt millions of Americans, did it 
because he thinks the national media will give him a pass, that no one 
in the national media will say: Boy, oh boy, the minority leader just 
blocked a reasonable request for an extension to help people.
  But he thinks, and I think with good reason, that the national media 
won't blame him for what he just did, so he did it with no explanation. 
That is not good faith. By definition, coming down saying, Take my $4 
trillion package or you won't get a 1-week extension of unemployment, 
that is not good faith.
  Let me mention one other point which Senator Portman mentioned. Now, 
on this tough issue of unemployment insurance--and Senator Portman has 
been a leader on this--I was talking to some of my Democratic 
colleagues about them today.
  By the way, most of them don't believe that $600 until January is a 
good idea for the reasons Senator Portman mentioned.
  Again, to have the minority leader of the U.S. Senate and Speaker 
Pelosi just say: 600 bucks, take it or leave it? Colleagues, you all 
know--we all know--that is not good faith. That is not good faith.
  It is starting to feel like the minority leader and the Speaker are 
not negotiating in good faith right now. I hope they are--I know a lot 
of my Democratic colleagues are--but people have to remember, 
regardless of what party you are in, Americans are hurting. They need 
help. We have one foot in the recovery, one foot still in the pandemic. 
But what we need as we negotiate this package is good faith.
  So I want to thank my colleague from Ohio again for his strong 
leadership on this and so many other issues. I am certainly going to be 
supportive of unanimous consent requests which we made at this time 
just last week to help people--not controversial, a week extension as 
we negotiate. It happens all the time here in the Senate.
  I certainly hope my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are not 
going to say, No, take my whatever, or we are not going to do it, 
because it doesn't look or feel like good faith. Do you know who is 
hurting by that? Do you know who is being hurt by that? The American 
people, who are suffering
  Mr. PORTMAN. I thank my colleague from Alaska.
  Reclaiming my time, I think he has made a good point. We are not 
talking about a negotiation here. We are talking about a weeklong 
extension of the existing $600 per week, so we could enable people to 
have some certainty and predictability on lives.
  I have heard from folks back home on unemployment asking: What are 
you doing? Why can't you come to an agreement?

[[Page S5247]]

  We talked about why. The Democrats don't seem interested about moving 
off their proposal, and they said it again today. Maybe they think this 
is good politics--maybe they think this is something worth hurting 
these people who are looking, to see if I am going to get my 
unemployment or not.
  I had a tele-townhall last night with a woman whose husband works in 
the hospitality business, and he has lost his job, and everybody else 
in that business has told him: Sorry, we are not open for business. He 
does need the help. She didn't insist on $600, but she said: Give us 
some certainty that something will go forward.
  So that is what this is about. This is just to say give us a week at 
$600, the full amount, in order to negotiate something that makes more 
sense for the economy, for small businesses, and for workers. This 
Martha McSally motion which was offered earlier this week and last 
week, we are going to offer today. It is a unanimous consent.
  I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the immediate 
consideration of the bill at the desk; I further ask that the bill be 
considered read a third time and passed and that the motion to 
reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
  The Senator from Oregon.
  Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, reserving the right to object, the Senate 
Republicans have spent much of this week offering this idea of a 1-week 
extension of the $600 unemployment insurance supplement. They have done 
this as an alternative to spending the week doing real negotiating, 
which is what I and many Senate Democrats have been calling for, for 
not just days but weeks and weeks--literally, months--as we called for 
an advanced proposal.
  In my view, the only thing worse than what the Republicans have done, 
cutting off desperately needed unemployment insurance to millions of 
families and communities, would be to allow a bill to pass that 
promises money without actually delivering it. That is snake oil, and I 
am going to be very specific in describing why that is the case.
  Even if this short-term extension were to pass, experts and State 
agencies have said in very clear terms that States don't have enough 
time to reprogram their systems and avoid a lapse in benefits. A lot of 
them just have, as my colleague from Ohio knows--I was talking about it 
for days in the Finance Committee room--that these State unemployment 
systems are not equipped to switch the benefits on and off. These 
short-term extensions won't work and don't work administratively.
  Nobody following this debate has to take my word for it. That is what 
the National Association of State Workforce Agencies have said.
  I think there was a comment about, well, this is an image problem. It 
is a problem of the national media. Well, I would say, colleagues, the 
national media has been repeating what I just said, which are the exact 
views of people who aren't Democrats or Republicans, they are the 
administrators of this crucial program.
  A short-term extension isn't enough for the hard-working Americans 
relying on this lifeline who don't have jobs to go back to. What about 
next week and the week after? There is going to be promises for week 
after week that also can't get the money to people so they can make 
rent and buy groceries.
  The only responsible route is to agree to the extension that really 
looks to economic conditions, ties these benefits to economic 
conditions and then lower the payments only when it is appropriate to 
do so, and that means when the economy is in recovery, not when it is 
facing the kind of dramatic contraction that we all were so concerned 
about last week.
  To me, this is all part of an effort to deflect the fact that when 
I--and I am just going to talk about myself specifically--but Senator 
Schumer, the Speaker sent letter after letter calling for negotiations 
because everybody knew there was a cliff. I said it repeatedly. I said: 
Don't go home, Leader McConnell. Stay here. This cliff is coming, end 
of July, last weekend, when people got the checks.
  So there was a comment about unemployed folks being pushed off the 
cliff. Well, I am here to tell you, it was Senate Republicans by their 
inaction who pushed those workers off the cliff.
  Now, what is needed is a long-term solution that ensures the extra 
$600 remains available for as long as this devastating crisis 
continues.
  I heard my colleagues talk about workers. A lot of workers who were 
laid off once and then brought back have been laid off again. That is 
really representative of the challenge.
  I also want to mention, as we talk about ideas--I heard my colleagues 
talk about it--another big snake oil idea coming out of the White House 
that somehow an Executive order is going to accomplish all of this. We 
hear the words ``Executive order.'' That sounds like it is going to be 
fast. Man, that sounds good. Executive order; let's move fast. In 
actuality, it would throw the States in chaos. It would be tied up in 
the courts. It would slow everything down, just like each of the Senate 
Republican legislative proposals so far. For example, they all still 
try to drive the idea of wage replacement. We have seen problems with 
getting the amount out initially, the $600. Wait until you see what 
happens with the Republican wage proposals.
  There is a path here, and that is to negotiate in good faith. My 
Republican colleagues have been stalling on negotiating in good faith 
because they thought somehow--and I find this a real head-scratcher--
they could win a war of words by insulting the American worker and 
claiming that they are kind of lazy, that they don't want to work and 
the like.
  I will tell you, on the Finance Committee, I hear continually from my 
friend from Ohio who talks about the superior work ethic of Ohioans. 
Now he is out here talking about how everybody is not willing to work 
and unemployment benefits are causing folks to stay home rather than 
work because they are too generous. I think that is just a bunch of 
hogwash. I believe Americans believe deeply in the dignity of work.
  We just had a nationwide townhall meeting about the unemployment 
issue, and people were saying: I can't believe they are calling us lazy 
and saying we don't want to work. I get a job offer on Monday night, 
and I will be up there at the crack of dawn on Tuesday.
  That is what workers are saying. So this idea that they are staying 
home because they don't want to work--besides, it is a violation of the 
rules of the program as well--I think is just hogwash.
  I would also like to put into the Record right now the latest 
assessment from the Bureau of Labor Statistics about what is really 
going on out here, because the issue is not workers being lazy; the 
issue is scarcity of jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics--again, not a 
political operation--has reported that there are four unemployed 
Americans for every job out there. Let me repeat that. Not politicians. 
Not anecdotes. Not somebody who said something to somebody else. Those 
are the facts, colleagues. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 
there are four unemployed Americans for every job out there.
  I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record the Bureau of 
Labor Statistics analysis showing the paucity of jobs
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

    NUMBER OF UNEMPLOYED PERSONS PER JOB OPENING, SEASONALLY ADJUSTED
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                           Number of
                                                           unemployed
                        Month                           persons per job
                                                            opening
------------------------------------------------------------------------
May 2005-............................................                2.0
June 2005-...........................................                1.8
July 2005-...........................................                1.7
Aug 2005-............................................                1.8
Sept 2005-...........................................                1.7
Oct 2005-............................................                1.8
Nov 2005-............................................                1.8
Dec 2005-............................................                1.8
Jan 2006-............................................                1.6
Feb 2006-............................................                1.7
Mar 2006-............................................                1.5
Apr 2006-............................................                1.4
May 2006-............................................                1.5
June 2006-...........................................                1.5
July 2006-...........................................                1.6
Aug 2006-............................................                1.5
Sept 2006-...........................................                1.4
Oct 2006-............................................                1.4
Nov 2006-............................................                1.5
Dec 2006-............................................                1.5
Jan 2007-............................................                1.5
Feb 2007-............................................                1.5
Mar 2007-............................................                1.4
Apr 2007-............................................                1.4
May 2007-............................................                1.4
June 2007-...........................................                1.4
July 2007-...........................................                1.5
Aug 2007-............................................                1.5
Sept 2007-...........................................                1.5

[[Page S5248]]

 
Oct 2007-............................................                1.5
Nov 2007-............................................                1.6
Dec 2007-............................................                1.7
Jan 2008-............................................                1.7
Feb 2008-............................................                1.8
Mar 2008-............................................                1.9
Apr 2008-............................................                1.9
May 2008-............................................                2.0
June 2008-...........................................                2.2
July 2008-...........................................                2.4
Aug 2008-............................................                2.5
Sept 2008-...........................................                2.9
Oct 2008-............................................                3.0
Nov 2008-............................................                3.3
Dec 2008-............................................                3.7
Jan 2009-............................................                4.4
Feb 2009-............................................                4.5
Mar 2009-............................................                5.3
Apr 2009-............................................                5.9
May 2009-............................................                5.6
June 2009-...........................................                5.8
July 2009-...........................................                6.4
Aug 2009-............................................                6.3
Sept 2009-...........................................                6.0
Oct 2009-............................................                6.3
Nov 2009-............................................                6.3
Dec 2009-............................................                6.1
Jan 2010-............................................                5.3
Feb 2010-............................................                5.7
Mar 2010-............................................                5.7
Apr 2010-............................................                4.8
May 2010-............................................                4.9
June 2010-...........................................                5.1
July 2010-...........................................                4.6
Aug 2010-............................................                4.8
Sept 2010-...........................................                5.0
Oct 2010-............................................                4.5
Nov 2010-............................................                4.8
Dec 2010-............................................                4.8
Jan 2011-............................................                4.5
Feb 2011-............................................                4.3
Mar 2011-............................................                4.2
Apr 2011-............................................                4.2
May 2011-............................................                4.3
June 2011-...........................................                4.0
July 2011-...........................................                3.7
Aug 2011-............................................                4.1
Sept 2011-...........................................                3.7
Oct 2011-............................................                3.7
Nov 2011-............................................                3.8
Dec 2011-............................................                3.6
Jan 2012-............................................                3.3
Feb 2012-............................................                3.6
Mar 2012-............................................                3.2
Apr 2012-............................................                3.3
May 2012-............................................                2.2
June 2012-...........................................                3.2
July 2012-...........................................                3.3
Aug 2012-............................................                3.2
Sept 2012-...........................................                3.1
Oct 2012-............................................                3.2
Nov 2012-............................................                3.2
Dec 2012-............................................                3.2
Jan 2013-............................................                3.2
Feb 2013-............................................                3.0
Mar 2013-............................................                2.9
Apr 2013-............................................                2.9
May 2013-............................................                2.8
June 2013-...........................................                2.8
July 2013-...........................................                2.9
Aug 2013-............................................                2.7
Sept 2013-...........................................                2.7
Oct 2013-............................................                2.6
Nov 2013-............................................                2.7
Dec 2013-............................................                2.6
Jan 2014-............................................                2.5
Feb 2014-............................................                2.4
Mar 2014-............................................                2.4
Apr 2014-............................................                2.1
May 2014-............................................                2.1
June 2014-...........................................                1.9
July 2014-...........................................                2.0
Aug 2014-............................................                1.8
Sept 2014-...........................................                1.9
Oct 2014-............................................                1.8
Nov 2014-............................................                1.9
Dec 2014-............................................                1.8
Jan 2015-............................................                1.7
Feb 2015-............................................                1.6
Mar 2015-............................................                1.6
Apr 2015-............................................                1.5
May 2015-............................................                1.6
June 2015-...........................................                1.6
July 2015-...........................................                1.3
Aug 2015-............................................                1.5
Sept 2015-...........................................                1.5
Oct 2015-............................................                1.4
Nov 2015-............................................                1.4
Dec 2015-............................................                1.4
Jan 2016-............................................                1.3
Feb 2016-............................................                1.3
Mar 2016-............................................                1.3
Apr 2016-............................................                1.4
May 2016-............................................                1.3
June 2016-...........................................                1.3
July 2016-...........................................                1.3
Aug 2016-............................................                1.4
Sept 2016-...........................................                1.4
Oct 2016-............................................                1.4
Nov 2016-............................................                1.3
Dec 2016-............................................                1.3
Jan 2017-............................................                1.3
Feb 2017-............................................                1.3
Mar 2017-............................................                1.2
Apr 2017-............................................                1.2
May 2017-............................................                1.2
June 2017-...........................................                1.1
July 2017-...........................................                1.1
Aug 2017-............................................                1.1
Sept 2017-...........................................                1.1
Oct 2017-............................................                1.0
Nov 2017-............................................                1.1
Dec 2017-............................................                1.1
Jan 2018-............................................                1.0
Feb 2018-............................................                1,0
Mar 2018-............................................                0.9
Apr 2018-............................................                0.9
May 2018-............................................                0.9
June 2018-...........................................                0.9
July 2018-...........................................                0.8
Aug 2018-............................................                0.9
Sept 2018-...........................................                0.8
Oct 2018-............................................                0.8
Nov 2018-............................................                0.8
Dec 2018-............................................                0.9
Jan 2019-............................................                0.9
Feb 2019-............................................                0.9
Mar 2019-............................................                0.8
Apr 2019-............................................                0.8
May 2019-............................................                0.8
June 2019-...........................................                0.8
July 2019-...........................................                0.8
Aug 2019-............................................                0.8
Sept 2019-...........................................                0.8
Oct 2019-............................................                0.8
Nov 2019-............................................                0.9
Dec 2019-............................................                0.9
Jan 2020-............................................                0.8
Feb 2020-............................................                0.8
Mar 2020-............................................                1.2
Apr 2020-............................................                4.6
May 2020-............................................                3.9
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  Mr. WYDEN. I will just say that I am stunned that colleagues are 
saying that American workers are out trying to scam the system and 
really don't want to work and all of these things that I think suggest 
a very different picture than what I hear from workers and, by the way, 
what I hear from my friend from Ohio when he is in the Finance 
Committee.
  I have a final point. The Republicans knew the cliff was coming in 
May when the House passed the Heroes Act. They knew the cliff was 
coming in June. I am just going to walk this through because I heard: 
Oh my goodness, all of the Democrats are involved in pushing workers 
off the cliff.
  The Republicans knew the cliff was coming in May. That is when the 
House passed their bill. They knew the cliff was coming a few weeks 
after that when Senator Schumer and I introduced and tried to get 
passed a piece of legislation that was really based, I say to my friend 
from Ohio--and something I heard our friend from South Dakota, Senator 
Thune, talk about--Senator Thune said: You know, I get it. When folks 
are hurting, the benefits have to be used to pay the rent and buy 
groceries. But when unemployment goes down, the benefit should taper 
down.
  That is essentially what the Democratic leader, Senator Schumer, and 
I offered--to tie unemployment insurance to the realities of what is on 
the ground in the American economy.
  Republicans knew the cliff was coming in May. They knew a few weeks 
later that Senator Schumer and I tried to actually pass a bill that, as 
I developed it and brought it to our leadership and showed it to 
colleagues, was really to a great extent sparked by what our friend 
from South Dakota, a Member of the Republican leadership, said: Well, 
let's kind of recognize that when the economy gets better, the benefit 
tapers off.
  Republicans knew the cliff was coming in July when again Leader 
Schumer and I tried to provide certainty for American families and 
communities by passing our bill. Did they come to the table with 
earnest proposals?
  Senate Republicans have spent the week on this idea of a 1-week 
extension, which the people who run the programs--the people who are 
the most knowledgeable, who don't have election certificates, who are 
experts in the field--are saying would not deliver to the people who 
are desperate to buy groceries and pay rent. It would not deliver the 
funds they so desperately need for quite some time.
  These proposals are not serious. They are political theater.
  The cliff is here. As Americans families fall over it, I am just 
stunned that we are hearing Republicans say: You know, it is OK to 
offer these proposals.
  I have seen a number in elevators, leaving town. I am going to be 
here. I am going to be here because I think when workers are hurting 
and they can't make rent and they can't pay groceries, you stay at it.
  The Senator from Ohio knows that is how we got to $600, because when 
Secretary Scalia folded his arms and said he couldn't really do 
anything that would present a real benefit, we spent 3 days--3 long 
days--and we said on our side: You are not going to stiff the workers, 
and we will just average the benefit. Some would get more, some would 
get less, but we would give everybody in America who, through no fault 
of their own, has been laid off a chance to pay the rent, buy 
groceries, and at the same time keep the economy afloat.
  For all of those reasons, and especially reflecting my disappointment 
that after--and I just walked everybody through it--one effort to go 
and negotiate; a couple of weeks later, another effort; then in July, 
another effort. But nothing happened. In fact, I stood right where I 
am, as benefits were about to expire, and I said: How can the 
Republican leader basically say we are going home? When they asked him 
about moving anything to really meet the needs of the workers, the 
press reported--everybody was quoting the press--that the Republican 
leader laughed.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
  Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, excuse me. I object.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.
  Mr. PORTMAN. I was hoping after all that there wouldn't be an 
objection because I can't believe that my friend

[[Page S5249]]

from Oregon believes that it is not a good idea to do an extension. All 
we are talking about is an extension for a week of the $600, the full 
amount, even though, again, all the data out there shows that amount is 
not practical for our economy, for workers, or for businesses.
  He made a valiant effort trying to explain why he is not for that, 
but I know that people who are watching just think it is common sense. 
Let's continue to discuss, but let's be sure we have, as my colleague 
from Alaska said, good-faith negotiations. That is not good faith, to 
say $600 or nothing. And that is exactly what the negotiators have 
said.
  To my colleague from Oregon, I wish they would authorize you to 
negotiate. I think you and I could actually work out something, and I 
think you probably do too. But they have not authorized us, and the 
Democratic negotiators have said $600 or nothing
  This notion that the 1-week extension just doesn't work--absolutely 
it works. Are you telling me that the State unemployment offices would 
not provide the $600? Of course they would. There would be a lapse, of 
course. There would be a week or two, they say. But that $600 would be 
in people's pockets.
  By the way, there is a lapse right now, so people who lost their 
unemployment last Friday in some States, including Ohio, continue to 
get it because there is a lapse in the payment. So, yes, people would 
get the money. Of course they would get it. And they would be able to 
plan on it and have some certainty.
  Frankly, if it hadn't been blocked last week when Senator McSally 
stood right over here and offered it, it would be even sooner that 
people would get it. I say it is 1 to 2 weeks, so for some people, they 
would be getting it right now.
  It is absolutely essential for us to figure out how to find a way 
forward here. It is not, to me, an option for us to do nothing. We 
can't allow this cliff to continue. But in the meantime, all we are 
saying is, let's just have a little time to work it out, and hopefully 
the Democrats will get off of their $600 and realize that is not a path 
forward because it doesn't work.
  You are right. When we put the $600 in place, our thought was that 
would be about average. In other words, it would be the average wage 
replacement, so that you would have half the people making a little 
more and half the people making a little less. That is not how it 
worked out.
  Again, the Congressional Budget Office--nonpartisan CBO--says that 
more than 80 percent of the UI recipients are going to make more on 
unemployment than they would at their old jobs, if you follow the 
Democratic proposal. In Chicago, 68 percent, but that is not what we 
intended. Certainly, we should be able to adjust here, and we should be 
able to get to yes.
  My deep concern is that the negotiators are so intransigent on the 
Democratic side that we will end up hurting the very people Democrats 
are talking about helping.
  Let's come up with a sensible solution. I think there is a path here, 
and it is to negotiate in good faith. I think an Executive order isn't 
necessary if we do our work. I think inaction by not negotiating in 
good faith is the worst possible outcome.
  I yield to my colleague from Alaska.
  Mr. SULLIVAN. Thank you, Senator Portman.
  I have a lot of respect for my colleague from Oregon, who 
unfortunately just left the Senate floor, but there they go again. On 
the Senate floor, the Senator from Oregon just said ``Republicans cut 
off unemployment insurance for millions of families'' when, in reality, 
what we have just witnessed--if you are watching--on the Senate floor 
is that the Senator from Oregon objected to restoring unemployment 
benefits for millions of Americans. That is a fact. That is just what 
happened.
  So he says one thing--and again, I think they get a little bit 
careless because they think the national media will just report what he 
says. But he said, ``I object.'' When he said ``I object,'' here is 
what he meant: I object to restoring unemployment benefits for millions 
of Americans. That is what the Senator from Oregon just did. There is 
no denying that. And right before he did it, he said that Republicans 
cut off unemployment for millions of Americans. That is just not true--
not true.
  He just objected to restoring unemployment benefits for a week--$600 
for millions of Americans--just like the Democratic leader from New 
York did last week. Then he said: ``Short-term extensions are not 
enough.'' That is another quote from the Senator from Oregon, but he 
didn't finish the sentence by saying: And because I objected, they are 
going to get zero.
  So think about that one. Short-term extensions are not enough--sounds 
good--so he objects so there are no extensions. Again, that is just 
what happened on the floor.
  He didn't say one thing about this issue that Senator Portman and I 
have been discussing, which is good-faith negotiations. There is not 
one Senator in this body who believes that when the Democratic leader 
comes to the floor of the Senate and says ``take the $4 trillion 
Speaker Pelosi bill passed in early May or nothing,'' that that is good 
faith. It is almost, by definition, bad faith.
  So I think our colleagues, who are trying to negotiate in good faith 
but are getting locked down by their leadership, are having a bit of a 
problem because they know this isn't good faith, and they know people 
are suffering. That is why we have got to work together to get to an 
agreement, but what we cannot do and what I fear the other side is 
starting to do is use people who are suffering as leverage in 
negotiations. That is not what we should be doing. We should be working 
in good faith to try to get to an agreement, and we should be making 
statements on the Senate floor that are actually factual.
  What just happened here was that the Senator from Oregon objected to 
American citizens getting their unemployment benefits restored. That is 
a fact.
  I yield the floor.
  Mr. PORTMAN. I yield back.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Texas.


                              CORONAVIRUS

  Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, before they leave the floor, I just want 
to compliment my colleagues from Alaska and Ohio on making a very 
important point. You would think, from the press, that there are 
negotiations taking place, but the truth is that Speaker Pelosi and the 
minority leader in the Senate, Senator Schumer, have shown zero 
interest in resolving the differences on this next COVID-19 package. I 
think it is just very important for my colleagues to lay out the facts 
because there is a tendency to ignore the facts in favor of a mythical 
or a fantasy construct, so I appreciate their statements.
  Hopefully, sometime soon, now that the enhanced unemployment benefits 
have been allowed to expire as a result of Democratic objections and 
where the Paycheck Protection Program, which was the single most 
successful part of the CARES Act legislation that we passed, is 
likewise scheduled to terminate here soon, I hope Democratic 
negotiators will get serious about providing a fifth coronavirus relief 
package to support our country through this unprecedented crisis.
  We are doing pretty well. During the previous legislation, we 
virtually passed these trillion-plus-dollar bills, multitrillion-dollar 
bills, essentially by unanimous vote because we knew we were in the 
middle of an emergency. We knew that it was not a time for politics; it 
was a time to try to help people who were out of work or needed help 
from our beleaguered healthcare providers.
  So we rose to the occasion, previously, by bolstering our healthcare 
response, making testing free of charge, providing vital funding for 
our hospitals, and arming our medical workers with the personal 
protective equipment and other medical equipment they needed in order 
to sustain the fight. We have poured funding into the research and 
development of a vaccine, therapeutics, and treatments, which are 
coming along, and we are all hopeful an American company will win the 
global race for a vaccine in addition to these therapeutics.
  The legislation we passed so far has buoyed the workers and families 
in need of financial assistance with direct payments, bolstered 
unemployment benefits, as well as conferred the ability to defer 
student loan payments

[[Page S5250]]

with no penalty, and we have supported our wobbly economy with 
assistance for Main Street businesses through the Paycheck Protection 
Program that I mentioned a moment ago and other loans for industries 
that our State and counties rely upon, as well as countless jobs.
  While Republicans and Democrats were negotiating these bills in good 
faith, it was clear we had some different ideas about the best way to 
support our country through the crisis, but what mattered most was that 
we shared the same goal. At least we did then. I am beginning to doubt 
whether we share the same goal now. The goal then was to help people in 
distress, economically and from a public health standpoint. Now, it 
seems like Speaker Pelosi and the minority leader in the Senate are 
more interested in trying to score political points and use people who 
are in distress and anxious and fearful as hostages.
  Well, it is really, really unacceptable. We should be strengthening 
our fight against the virus and supporting those harmed by economic 
impact and laying the foundation for a rebound of our economy, which 
was one of the strongest in my lifetime right before this pandemic hit.
  Those remain my priorities today, as we navigate these uncharted 
waters and prepare to strengthen our fight at this crucial time, but 
the hangup in negotiations between Democrats and the administration 
seems to indicate that our Democratic colleagues have shifted course--
or at least that Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Schumer have.
  The majority of information we are learning about these negotiations 
is not coming from rank-and-file Members but from leaks and press 
conferences to the media about private meetings in Speaker Pelosi's 
office. From what I understand, it sounds like the Speaker and the 
minority leader have simply stiff-armed any offers that fall short of 
their ridiculous Heroes Act legislation that the Speaker and the House 
passed on a partisan basis a few weeks ago--that they knew at the time 
had no chance of becoming law.

  This legislation was heralded by Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader 
Schumer as the solution our country needs to defeat this virus, so 
let's talk about what is in it. For starters, the so-called Heroes Act 
is a massive tax cut for millionaires and billionaires. If the Heroes 
Act became law, the wealthiest people in New York and San Francisco 
would receive an average benefit of nearly $60,000--$60,000--higher 
than the household income for many Texans.
  Well, this has nothing to do with COVID-19 or supporting those who 
are struggling to make ends meet. It is a handout to the people who 
need it least, at everyone else's expense. But that is only one line in 
the long list of absurdities in this legislation, the Heroes Act, that 
have absolutely nothing to do with the crisis at hand.
  What is the Speaker's priority when it comes to COVID-19? Well, it is 
a soil health program, environmental justice grants, permanent changes 
in election law, and not one but two diversity studies in the marijuana 
industry.
  POLITICO called this bill, at the time, a Democratic wish list filled 
with all the party's favorite policies. NPR, hardly a bastion of 
conservative communication, said it is a long wish list for Democrats. 
The New York Times--the New York Times--basically, a party organ for 
the Democrats, said the bill was more a messaging document than a 
viable piece of legislation. The reason they said that is because one-
third of that bill is unrelated to the coronavirus.
  It paid people more to stay home than to work. It sent checks to 
illegal immigrants. It bailed out poorly run States. It facilitated 
ballot harvesting, marijuana banking, and, as I said, tax breaks for 
coastal elites.
  That stands in stark contrast to what we have proposed and what 
Leader McConnell aptly summed up as kids, jobs, and healthcare. Those 
ought to be our priorities. As we discover our new normal that exists 
somewhere between the virus arriving in the United States and a vaccine 
being distributed, that is where we need to target our attention and 
our support.
  That includes funding for educators who are in the process of 
planning the safest way to teach students in the fall and childcare for 
working parents who are heading back to the office. It includes helping 
the workers who had the rug pulled out from under them when our 
Democratic colleagues refused to continue bolstered unemployment 
benefits until these workers can get back to a steady paycheck.
  Our bill included continued support for our war against the virus 
itself, both in hospitals and in research labs. These have been the 
main concerns in my recent conversations with my constituents in Texas, 
especially now that the bolstered unemployment benefits provided by the 
CARES Act have expired.
  Since March, more than 3 million Texans have filed for unemployment 
benefits, and recipients have taken advantage of the additional $600 a 
week. This additional income has helped families cover the rent, 
groceries, and other critical expenses until they are able to return to 
work, and for many workers there is still a great deal of uncertainty 
about when that might happen.
  Well, it is clear, though, that that $600 additional benefit had some 
unintended consequences. Frankly, we should have capped the amount that 
somebody could receive for unemployment benefits at their previous 
earning level, but, according to the Texas Workforce Commission, with 
the $600 weekly benefit on top of the State benefit, 80 percent of the 
people receiving the unemployment insurance benefit were making more on 
unemployment insurance than they were previously employed--80 percent.
  That brings us to a point far beyond giving workers the financial 
support they need to stay afloat. Instead, the Federal Government is 
paying people not to work. That is the wrong incentive and, certainly, 
completely unnecessary. Payroll, wage substitution--yes. Paying people 
not to work--no.
  A recent poll found that two-thirds of Americans believe that these 
enhanced benefits discourage people from going back to work, and they 
are right. Among unemployed Americans, nearly half say they would avoid 
returning to work if these benefits were extended.
  The businesses in my State which closed their doors earlier this year 
have now had trouble hiring employees back because some 80 percent of 
those former employees are making more not working than they were 
working. If we were to extend that benefit through January, as the 
Heroes Act would, our economy would not recover, as we all need it to 
do.
  So there is a delicate balance--but an important balance--between 
supporting those who need help until they can return to the workforce 
and giving them an incentive to avoid returning to work. This is not an 
all-or-nothing approach. It is not 600 bucks or bust, even though that 
is the way Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Schumer like to put it.
  We can and we should begin and continue to supplement State 
unemployment benefits and give workers the income they need to support 
their families without paying people more to stay home than to work. It 
is not rocket science.
  We are all anxiously waiting for the Speaker and the minority leader 
to wake up and start focusing on the task at hand, which is on 
commonsense policies that support our country through this crisis. 
Texans don't have time to wait for the posturing or the politicking and 
the grandstanding, not to mention the heel-dragging. They don't have an 
interest in knowing how diverse the marijuana business is, and they 
don't want to provide a massive tax break to the richest Americans on 
the east coast at the expense of everyone else.
  My constituents want to be able to feed their families; they want to 
be able to work; they want to be able to pay their rent; and they want 
to know their kids will be healthy as the school year begins.
  I implore our colleagues, Speaker Pelosi, and Minority Leader Schumer 
to drop the games, quit hurting people you claim to champion, and pay 
attention to what America really needs.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Alaska.
  Mr. SULLIVAN. Mr. President, I want to thank my good friend and 
colleague from Texas for laying out the choice before us and 
highlighting, again, this issue of good-faith negotiations, which 
hopefully we are starting

[[Page S5251]]

to see, but last week we didn't see; and he talked about the so-called 
Heroes Act passed in May--so quite stale.
  I will say one other element of that that was shocking and has been 
shocking to me is, there is a whole section on clawing back CARES Act 
money that went to Alaska Natives. The Heroes Act, the Pelosi $4 
trillion bill, has a section that targets expressly about 20 percent of 
the population of my State--and my State only. By the way, they are 
amazing, patriotic people who have been through pandemics before and 
have suffered horrendously during these pandemics. The Heroes Act 
targets them and says any money that Native Alaskan organizations have 
received--by the way, organizations, regional and village corporations 
set up by Congress--any money they have received will be clawed back in 
the Heroes Act. Of course, I am never going to let that bill pass--
ever--on this floor. It is an outrage.
  They need to get more serious about these negotiations, and the 
``take it or leave it'' on the $4 trillion Pelosi bill that 
specifically targets some of the most patriotic Americans in the 
country, who happen to be my constituents--Alaska Natives--is never 
going to fly. Never

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