Pelosi rejects call to extend coronavirus unemployment relief benefits with smaller bill

“I don't think, strategically, it's where we should go right now," the House Speaker said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shot down calls on Thursday to extend unemployment benefits through a smaller coronavirus relief package, arguing passage of a streamlined bill could derail talks on other Democratic funding priorities.

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Pelosi explained her position after more than 100 House Democrats called on party leaders to allow a vote on a bill this week to reinstate the expired $600 weekly unemployment benefit for workers. The speaker said she supports calls to tie benefits to the unemployment rate, but felt that it was the wrong “timing” to hold a vote.

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“I don't think, strategically, it's where we should go right now, because the Republicans would like to pass something like that and say, forget about it,” Pelosi said in an interview with PBS NewsHour. “Forget about state and local. Forget about our investments in stopping the virus. Forget about other initiatives, about feeding the food-insecure country in our country, vote-by-mail initiatives, and the rest.”

President Trump signed an executive order to reinstate a $300 weekly unemployment benefit after talks stalled on a comprehensive extension of coronavirus relief measures. Democratic leaders supported a larger $3.4 trillion aid package that would include the full $600 weekly benefit and federal funding to support mail-in ballots, while Republicans supported a smaller $1 trillion package with a smaller weekly benefit.

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Pelosi said she did not expect any bill to be passed within the next few days.

“I don't think the timing is for us to do it right now, because, imagine, the Republicans could take that into the Senate, put poison pills all over it. And it's hard to vote against extending unemployment benefits,” she said. “And, again, I think, overwhelmingly, our members — who would not want to extend unemployment benefits? As I say, it's something I fully support, and the stabilization, but not necessarily in the negotiation.”

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Pelosi called the House back into session to vote Saturday on legislation related to the U.S. Postal Service. Lawmakers will vote on whether to block any changes to its operations ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

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