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Sens. Tim Scott, Ben Sasse, Lindsey Graham and Rick Scott. Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

The prospect of the Senate quickly passing the $2 trillion coronavirus relief deal that congressional leaders struck with the White House hit a speed bump Wednesday after a group of Republican senators demanded an amendment related to unemployment insurance.

The state of play: Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Rick Scott (Fla.) said Wednesday that they would object to fast-tracking the bill over a provision that would grant an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits to low-wage workers who lose their jobs.

  • The Republican senators argue that because the unemployment benefits would be larger than what low-wage workers usually make, it would incentivize them to get laid off and not return to the workforce.
  • The amendment they want to introduce would limit unemployment benefits to 100% of a worker's salary.

The other side: Sen. Bernie Sanders later released a statement saying that unless the senators drop their "anti-worker objections," he is prepared to block the legislation in order to impose "strong conditions on the $500 billion corporate welfare fund."

  • “I am prepared to put a hold on this bill … to make sure that any corporation receiving financial assistance under this legislation does not lay off workers, cut wages or benefits, ship jobs overseas, or pay workers poverty wages," Sanders said.
  • Sanders told the New York Times that he will vote for the bill as written, but only if the Republicans drop their demands: "I cannot at the last minute allow some right-wing senators try to undermine the needs of workers and think they are going to get away with that.”

The big picture: The stock market lost a ton of steam after news broke of a potential holdup of the aid package.

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at a press briefing Wednesday that he does not believe the provision will create incentives and that most Americans "want to keep their jobs.
  • He declined to comment on the Republican senators' specific complaints, but said it's his expectation that the bill will be passed by the Senate tonight and by the House tomorrow.

Go deeper

Biden says he'll make Supreme Court pick by end of February

President Biden speaks on the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden on Thursday said he will announce the nominee for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's replacement by the end of February.

Driving the news: Biden also affirmed that he will nominate a Black woman to replace Breyer, saying "it's long overdue."

Stephen Breyer formally announces retirement from Supreme Court

Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

Justice Stephen Breyer on Thursday sent a letter to President Biden formally announcing his retirement from the Supreme Court.

State of play: Breyer said his retirement will take effect when the court "rises for the summer recess (typically late June or early July) assuming that by then my successor has been nominated and confirmed."

COVID created an epic U.S. trade gap

Chart: Axios Visuals. Data: Census Bureau/Bureau of Economic Analysis

The details of the blockbuster fourth quarter GDP report released Thursday morning tell a vivid story of how the underpinnings of the world economy have been reshaped by the pandemic.

One example: In the arithmetic around U.S. economic output, trade acted as a more severe drag last year than it has in a generation.