Biden's Stimulus Vote Will Have Lengthy Delay After GOP Forces Bill to Be Read Aloud

The road to passing President Joe Biden's priority coronavirus relief package just got a lot longer.

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, plans to force all 600 to 700 pages of the bill to be read aloud before the Senate will begin formally debating the proposal and amendments.

"I'm going to make them read that thing," Johnson said in an interview with local talk radio station 1130 WISN on Wednesday. "It will probably take about 10 hours."

Senator Ben Cardon, a Maryland Democrat, told reporters at the Capitol on Wednesday, that the delay shouldn't have too large of an impact on the ultimate passage of the bill.

"I don't think there's a problem with it," he said. "I just feel sorry for the reading clerk."

Senate Minority Whip John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, confirmed that the reading will take place at the opening of the bill and will be on top of the standard 20 hours allowed for debate on legislation.

Johnson's plan also includes possibly introducing dozens of amendments, stretching the debate even further and likely late into the evening or early morning.

The Senate typically shortens debate by moving forward without a formal reading. Any senator can object to the practice. Additionally, the amendment process, commonly referred to as a "vote-a-rama," is often streamlined through chamber leadership, limiting the number taken up.

But Johnson said he's organizing an effort to prolong the debate.

"We need to keep this process going," Johnson said, adding his goal is to "highlight how grotesque" he thinks the legislation is, though lawmakers are still working behind-the-scenes to hammer out a final version of the bill.

He said he thinks the cost is too high and that it covers too many items not directly related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Democrats, who have pushed the bill as both a relief package and economic stimulus, had hoped to be able to pass the latest relief package by the end of the week.

Biden's initial $1.9 trillion plan to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic includes $1,400 stimulus checks for most Americans, money to safely reopen schools, boosts in unemployment pay, and other efforts meant to shore up the economy and assist families.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday that Biden is "comfortable" with where negotiations stand on the bill.

"As someone who served for 36 years in the Senate, he is certainly familiar with the journey that it takes from a proposal to a bill being signed, and in every instance, in the final stage—which we feel we were in we are in now, there are suggestions, there are changes, there are negotiations," Psaki said. "As he has always said, he's open to good ideas and to proposals that will strengthen the package, but what he has been firm on is that the package needs to be large enough to meet the scope of the crises we're facing COVID and the economic downturn."

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden holds a meeting on cancer with Vice President Kamala Harris and other lawmakers in the Oval Office at the White House on March 3, 2021 in Washington, DC. Samuel Corum/Getty