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Ron Johnson Made Clerks Read 628-Page COVID Bill

The exercise took nearly 11 hours
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 4, 2021 7:15 PM CST
Updated Mar 5, 2021 2:00 AM CST

(Newser) – Before President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill can be voted on by the Senate, all 628 pages had to be read aloud by clerks. That was Republican Sen. Ron Johnson's idea, USA Today reports. He said he doesn't like much of what's in the bill, so it's important to delay the vote so Americans can learn its contents. "So often we rush these massive bills," Johnson said. Polls show broad public support for the bill, so Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer said reading the provisions aloud, which began Thursday at 3:21pm, per the New York Times, was fine with him and that there would eventually be a vote. "No matter how long it takes, the Senate is going to stay in session to finish the bill this week," the majority leader said, per the Washington Post. The vote might not take place until the weekend. So how long did it take? Fox News reports the reading concluded at 2:05am Friday.

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Vice President Kamala Harris broke a tie vote to open debate on the legislation. Democrats had been negotiating among themselves and making changes to the package until just before it went to the floor, so most senators hadn't read the final version, per Politico. Still, the request by Johnson—who's leading the GOP opposition to the legislation, per CNN—immediately cleared the chamber. "I'm not sitting here for reading the bill," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told reporters outside. Soon, the only Republican left on the floor was Johnson, who sat at his desk and watched the clerk read. He or another Republican had to stay on the floor to keep Democrats from getting around his gambit. Sen. Mitt Romney was among the Republicans who supported Johnson's strategy, though Graham said the amendment process, which comes later, might be a better time to highlight the provisions Republicans oppose. "Good thing we have time during a national emergency to do this," Sen. Bernie Sanders said to a colleague as he left. (Read more economic stimulus package stories.)

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