Stimulus Vote Stalls as Senate Weighs Appeasing Manchin on Unemployment

In their effort to pass a $1.9 trillion stimulus, senators are getting hung up on unemployment benefits.

The stimulus bill passed in the House would increase weekly unemployment payments from $300 to $400 and extend their duration through August. (They’re currently set to lapse on March 14.) But Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), a crucial vote in a divided Senate, opposes higher unemployment payments. So Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.) came up with a compromise: Keep the payments at $300, extend them through September, and make the first $10,200 in benefits nontaxable.

Sounds great, right? Not so fast.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) had another idea, which Manchin seems to be considering: Ditch the tax break, keep the payments at $300, and halt the payments at the end of July. Either amendment would require the House to pass the bill again, and progressives in the chamber might not want to approve Portman’s changes. But the clock is ticking—again, current unemployment benefits lapse on the 14th.

Naturally, this unemployment negotiation, and the necessity of winning over Manchin, has stalled the Senate for five hours and counting.

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