Senate GOP will force clerks to read bill to delay COVID-19 relief vote

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), a staunch Trump ally and fiscal conservative, has told colleagues that he plans to force the Senate clerks to read aloud the entire $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill on the Senate floor, which could slow it down by as much as 10 hours.

Democrats on Wednesday were grumbling over the prospect of having to factor an additional 10 hours of floor time into passing the bill.

Any senator can force a reading of a bill on the floor, but the formality is almost always skipped by unanimous consent to avoid wasting time.

Now senators will likely have to spend 10 hours listening to the bill be read aloud, which will come on top of the 20 hours of debate time scheduled for the legislation.

A Republican senator said Johnson will force a reading of the Senate substitute, which will include several changes compared to the 630-page relief bill that passed the House.

“I’m told it’s going to be more like 10 [hours]. It’s going to occur at the beginning so it would be before the clocks starts so it doesn’t go against the 20 hours, it’s on top of the 20,” said Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.).

A Morning Consult-Politico poll published last week showed that 76 percent of voters and 60 percent of Republicans support the $1.9 trillion relief package yet Senate Republicans are putting up stiff resistance to the legislation, characterizing it as wasteful spending.

“Their bill costs about $2 trillion. That’s roughly the same size as the entire CARES Act that saved our health system and economy through months of shutdowns,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor.

“Even liberal experts admit this is far out of proportion to what’s needed now, with vaccines going into arms and the economy already primed to roar back,” he said. “Amazingly, Democrats managed to allocate less than 9 percent of their massive bill to the entire health care response, and less than 1 percent to the vaccinations that will finish this fight.”

Republicans have focused their criticism on two projects in the House-passed bill that they said would benefit the home states of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). One project would provide $141 million in funding for the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, while the other would give $1.5 million for the Seaway International Bridge to Canada.

Democrats have removed both projects from the Senate version of the bill.

“Now that the two projects that Republicans misled the public about in the House bill have been removed, it is unclear how Republicans will justify their opposition to the American Rescue Plan, which has strong bipartisan support among the public,” said senior Pelosi aide Drew Hammill. 

“It just delays things a day,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). “I feel sorry for the reading clerk.” 

Tags Ben Cardin Charles Schumer coronavirus relief COVID-19 John Thune Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Ron Johnson stimulus checks
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