Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) and his fellow Democrats fumed Thursday night after Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson requested a public reading of the full $1.9 trillion stimulus bill.
The current legislation runs 628 pages. Public reading of the legislation took Senate staffers 10 hours and 44 minutes and ended shortly after 2 a.m. EST.
Johnson’s measure forced the public disclosure of the massive amounts of non-COVID-related pork that Democrats stuffed in the bill.
Following Vice President Kamala Harris‘s tie-breaking vote to move the bill forward, Schumer had “requested that the reading of the bill be waived, which is customary, but Johnson objected, which kicked off a marathon reading session by Senate clerks.”
Colorado Democrat Senator Michael Bennet said there are “better uses” of time than reading a bill that costs taxpayers nearly $2 trillion.
Senator Bernie Sanders agreed, tweeting:
In the midst of the worst economic, healthcare and educational crises in the modern history of our country, when we need to respond with urgency, the Republicans are now wasting 5 hours on the Senate floor by forcing the reading of the 628-page American Rescue Plan.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) March 4, 2021
Democrat Sen. Alex Padilla of California compared reading a bill on the Senate floor to a hostage situation.
While all Senate Republicans voted against moving forward with the COVID relief bill and one is now holding it hostage on the Senate floor, we have our eyes on the prize. We will pass the American Rescue Plan. https://t.co/erEBggcwVh
— Senator Alex Padilla (@SenAlexPadilla) March 4, 2021
National Republican Senatorial Committee Communications Director Chris Hartline said in a statement:
Democrats are throwing a temper tantrum because their COVID bill is simply being read out loud on the Senate floor. Nancy Pelosi famously said, ‘you have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.’ Senate Democrats are now saying, ‘please don’t read the bill so no one can find out what’s in it.’ They must not want Americans to know that 90% of the bill is unrelated to COVID or that less than 1% goes towards vaccine development and distribution.
Despite the public reading requirement, Schumer responded, “No matter how long it takes, the Senate is going to stay in session to finish the bill – this week.”
Once the bill is read, Senate debate will include 20 hours of discussion. The amendment process will take place following this time, with conservatives likely seeking votes on issues included in the bill ranging from abortion to immigration.
Some of the bill’s proposals have already been removed. The Associated Press reported, “Liberals already suffered a blow when their No. 1 priority — a federal minimum wage increase to $15 hourly that was included in the House package — was booted from the bill in the Senate for violating the chamber’s rules and for lack of moderates’ support.”
A second change already made to the bill involved reducing the eligibility for COVID-19 relief checks. According to NBC News:
Every American who filed individually and makes up to $75,000 would still get the full amount before it begins to reduce at incomes above that. But rather than zero out at $100,000 earnings, as the last Covid-19 relief bill does, the Senate bill would cut off payments at $80,000, the sources said.
For couples filing jointly, incomes up to $150,000 would still get the full amount. But rather than zero out at $200,000, the Senate bill would cut off payments at $160,000 in earnings.
Democrats hope to see the bill approved and on President Biden’s desk by March 14. Current COVID-19 unemployment aid programs expire on that date.
If successful, Vice President Harris may be invited to the Senate once again to cast a second tie-breaker vote.