Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) has infuriated Democrats by demanding that Senate clerks read each and every page of Joe Biden’s $2 trillion Covid-19 relief bill aloud. To some Dems, bills are better passed with no debate.
President Joe Biden’s Covid-19 relief bill, which passed the House of Representatives last week, weighs in at a whopping 628 pages. It offers relief checks of $1,400 to eligible Americans, though more than three quarters of its $1.9 trillion price tag funds other federal programs and state governments.
Republicans have accused Democrats of packing the bill with unnecessary pork, and when the Senate assembled to debate the bill on Thursday, Johnson objected to skipping a line-for-line reading of the bill, forcing two Senate clerks to spend the next ten hours reading it aloud.
“If they’re going to add nearly $2T to the national debt at least we should know what’s in the bill,” he tweeted.
I just objected to skipping past the reading of the Democrats’ 628-page bill that was just introduced minutes ago.If they’re going to add nearly $2T to the national debt at least we should know what’s in the bill.
— Senator Ron Johnson (@SenRonJohnson) March 4, 2021
Liberal commentators raged at Johnson for obstructing the bill’s passage, calling his maneuver “one of the dumbest stunts in Senate history.”
Congratulations, Ron Johnson, on pulling one of the dumbest stunts in Senate history while your own constituents got sick and died from a pandemic you just fought to prolong. Good lord, Wisconsin. Come get this man. https://t.co/HNpl4HpJL9
— Tim Hogan (@timjhogan) March 5, 2021
Just popping in to say that Ron Johnson is an asshole.
— Brian Tyler Cohen (@briantylercohen) March 5, 2021
The sight of those Senate staffers reading every page of the COVID Relief bill because of Ron Johnson is a disgrace.I can’t stand Republicans.
— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@mmpadellan) March 5, 2021
“For 10 hours, Ted Cruz wasn’t the most hated senator in Congress,” comedian Jimmy Fallon joked on Thursday’s ‘Tonight Show’.
By the time the bill was read, it was after 2am on Friday morning and Johnson was the only Senator still present. Despite his effort to highlight the bill’s apparent wastefulness, however, he may have inadvertently helped it pass. The reading cut into time that would be otherwise spent debating the bill, and a vote is planned for early Friday afternoon.
The bill’s passage is uncertain. Republicans have accused Democrats of using it to fund their own pet programs, with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell calling it a “partisan spending spree.” The GOP’s opposition to the bill is likely moot though, as Democrats are using a special budget process to bypass the two-thirds majority that such a bill would usually need. If the party votes in unison, with Vice President Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote, the bill will make its way to Biden’s desk.
While the bill allocates more than $400 billion for relief checks, $246 billion to extended unemployment insurance and $143 billion to child tax credits, it also gives more than $350 billion to federal employees and state and local governments. With New York and California said to benefit disproportionately from this cash, Republicans have called the bill a “blue state bailout.”
Among its other provisions were funding for a bridge linking New York to Canada and an underground railway in Silicon Valley, both later removed.
Johnson’s stunt may have infuriated Democrats and liberal commentators, but he is not the first Republican to demand that Congress actually read the bills it passes. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul attempted to introduce a ‘Read the Bills Act’ in 2012 to no avail, and three years later complained that the Congress passed a 2,000-page, $1.1 trillion spending bill without ever reading it. Similar complaints were raised in 2010 about the Affordable Care Act, with some Democrats admitting that they never read its 900-plus pages, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi telling a conference that “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”
Democrats do not have a monopoly on speeding mammoth bills through Congress. When Republicans voted in favor of President Donald Trump’s tax cuts in 2017, the shoe was on the other foot and Democrats complained that they never got a chance to read some amendments to the bill, which they claimed were inserted with no debate, hours before the final vote.
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