GOP senator: Helping unemployed Americans amid pandemic was 'a mistake'


John Cornyn once called extended unemployment benefits a 'lifeline' for U.S. families.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) reiterated his belief that additional assistance to unemployed Americans in the middle of a recession and pandemic was "a mistake" during a call on Friday with the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants.

"This is one area where we found that we did make a mistake," Cornyn said, "because we actually added a $600 a week benefit from the federal government. And some people, we found out, in some wage brackets, were actually making more money not to work than to work. So that expires in July and we’re not going to do that again."

The comments were first flagged by American Bridge, a progressive opposition research organization.

Cornyn has made similar comments in the past.

Since late March, he has taken several different positions on the unemployment benefits, which were a part of a coronavirus relief package known as the CARES Act.

On March 25, Cornyn was one of 48 senators who voted for an amendment to the CARES Act to make those unemployment benefits less generous.

A day after that vote, Cornyn bragged about the very benefits he opposed, calling the overall legislation a "lifeline" for families that would help "cover their rent, groceries, electric bills, and other expenses until they can make other arrangements, like apply for unemployment insurance under our beefed up provisions."

In May, Cornyn shifted back to opposing the benefits, telling NBC News reporter Julie Tsirkin that "we just made a mistake" in approving additional unemployment benefits.

Cornyn’s insistence that the benefits not be extended past July comes as unemployment rates remain high in both Texas and across the country.

Texas saw a 13% unemployment rate in May 2020, compared to a 3% unemployment rate a year ago. More than 2.7 million Texans have filed for unemployment since mid-March, more unemployment claims than all of 2019, according to the Texas Tribune.

Nationwide, 17.8 million Americans remain out of work and the unemployment rate stood at 11.1% on Thursday morning.

Economic experts have said that the unemployment benefits Cornyn opposes have the potential to dramatically help the economy.

If the benefits stayed in place through the middle of 2021, they would "provide an average quarterly boost to gross domestic product (GDP) of 3.7% and employment of 5.1 million workers," according to a recent analysis from the Economic Policy Institute's Working Economics Blog.

Cornyn's comments also come as the country grapples with a spike in new coronavirus cases, causing many states to shutter businesses that were only recently reopened.

Earlier this week, governors in both Texas and Florida rolled back plans to reopen some segments of the economy as record levels of coronavirus cases were confirmed in their states.

Arizona's governor soon followed suit.

The economic impact of the surge in virus cases remains to be seen, but experts recently said states with a high number of cases are not doing well.

Deutsche Bank economists noted that "states with faster case growth are now underperforming economically based on measures of small business activity, restaurant bookings and consumer spending."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.