CORONAVIRUS

Grassley rips Democrats for blocking extension of jobless benefits

Sen. Chuck Grassley is greeted by Columbus Junction mayor Mark Huston before a July 7 town hall at the Columbus Junction
Sen. Chuck Grassley is greeted by Columbus Junction mayor Mark Huston before a July 7 town hall at the Columbus Junction City Hall. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Compromise can’t be one-sided, according to Sen. Chuck Grassley, who is accusing congressional Democrats are playing election-year politics with coronavirus relief.

“No consideration, no compromise” seems to be the position of Democrats, the Iowa Republican said Wednesday, adding that “now we have Democrats seeming to have rejected just about everything out of hand. That’s not how you deliver for the American people, particularly in the United States Senate where nothing gets done that’s not bipartisan.”

Specifically, Grassley, who chairs the Finance Committee, took issue with Democrats blocking a temporary extension of the $600-a-week federal supplemental unemployment benefit.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi apparently prefers to let the benefit expire — which it did at the end of July — rather than compromise with Republicans, “so that she can blame President Trump for the pain inflicted on Americans,” Grassley said.

The stalemate over the unemployment benefit has become a talking point in Democratic campaigns with Iowa U.S. Senate candidate Theresa Greenfield calling on Congress to stay in session to extend the $600-a-week benefit.

“Hardworking Iowans are suffering,” Greenfield said in an interview Wednesday. She called on her Republican opponent, Sen. Joni Ernst, to stay in Washington “until she gets that job done.”

The Senate is expected to remain in session next week.

Republicans twice have offered temporary extensions of the supplemental benefit until Congress agrees to another COVID-19 relief package. In both cases, the offer was rejected by Democrats.

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“There was no downside to a temporary extension, but there was apparently a political upside to blocking it,” Grassley said.

Most members of the Senate Republican caucus, including Ernst, want to extend the benefits, he said, adding that “some of the most conservative people have said we’ve got to deliver.”

Although he supported the temporary extension, Grassley has cited a variety of economists who he said agree Congress needs to “responsibly phase out” the federal unemployment benefit.

“Ending it with no replacement would hurt workers and damage the economy,” Grassley said. “But continuing it in its current form would hold back our economic recovery by creating a disincentive for millions of Americans to return to work — because they can make more money staying home.”

Republicans have offered a plan to extend the unemployment benefit at 66 percent of lost wages or $200 a week. They say that is more than what was approved by the Democratic-controlled Congress after the 2008 financial crisis.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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