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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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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

Mike Allen, author of AM
35 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Laurene Powell Jobs' $3.5 billion climate campaign

Laurene Powell Jobs, president of Emerson Collective, is investing $3.5 billion in her new climate-action group, the Waverley Street Foundation — all to be spent in 10 years, as a way to show urgency on the issue.

  • Then the group will sunset.

The big picture: The foundation "will focus on initiatives and ideas that will aid underserved communities who are most impacted by climate change," an official tells Axios.

R. Kelly found guilty of racketeering and sex trafficking

Photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Singer R. Kelly on Monday was found guilty of racketeering and eight counts of violating an anti-sex trafficking law, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: Sexual misconduct allegations have surrounded R. Kelly's career, including a child sexual abuse image case in 2008 where he was acquitted. Multiple other victims have come forward to speak about the abuse in recent years.

German elections: After close result, jockeying to replace Merkel begins

Data: Preliminary results from German Federal Returning Officer; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) pulled off a come-from-behind victory in Sunday’s elections, 10 seats ahead of the Christian Democrats (CDU), which failed to finish top for the first time in 16 years.

State of play: SPD leader Olaf Scholz has said he’ll seek to form a government, but so too has Armin Laschet, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s successor as CDU leader.