A Republican senator severely delayed passage of a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package Thursday by insisting that the entire 628-page bill be read out loud.
In protest of the bill, which had been expected to pass after a marathon round of votes overnight Thursday, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., objected to waiving the reading of the legislation.
Two Senate clerks — John Merlino and Mary Anne Clarkson — and other members of the secretary of the Senate’s office were taking shifts reading the bill. The effort, which began at around 3:30 p.m., could last over 10 hours before lawmakers actually begin debating the provisions in the legislation.
Any member can object to waiving the reading of the bill, a procedural move that is typically skipped. Johnson said in a tweet Thursday that because of its large price tag, “we should know what’s in the bill.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Johnson’s stunt would “accomplish little more than a few sore throats for the Senate clerks who work very hard day in, day out to help the Senate function.”
The Democratic-controlled Senate voted Thursday afternoon to begin debate on President Joe Biden’s relief package in a party-line vote. The bill does not need any Republican support to pass, because Democrats are using a special budget process to bypass the filibuster. However, Republicans are expected to raise objections, anyway.
Before a final vote can be taken, senators will be able to introduce unlimited amendments, which is known as a “vote-a-rama.”
The House passed a version of the Covid-19 relief bill last month. Once the Senate bill is approved, the House will have to vote on it again before it can be sent to Biden.