Democrats Outsmart Ron Johnson After Stunt To Read COVID Bill


Early Friday morning, Senate staff completed their full reading of the hundreds of pages of the COVID-19 economic relief package that is moving through Congress. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) demanded the stunt, refusing to agree to waiving the reading of the legislation and leaving the Senate at a standstill for over 10 hours. At the conclusion of the session, Republicans all abandoned the chamber — but the proceedings had not yet drawn to a close. Before the end, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) proposed shortening 20 hours of planned debate to just 3 hours, and with no Republicans present to object to the move, it was enacted.

As USA Today explained:

‘The Senate was originally set to begin 20 hours of debate on the bill Friday, but at the end of Thursday’s session, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., motioned for the chamber to reduce the debate time to three hours. With no Republicans left in the chamber shortly after 2 a.m. ET on Friday, Van Hollen succeeded.’

Thus, Democrats moved to curtail possibilities for future Republican obstruction. It’s not as though longer debate would have necessarily driven any Senate Republicans to change their stances. Every single Senate Republican voted against moving to debate on the relief legislation at all, and only Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote allowed the process to actually move forward. The Senate is 50-50, and with Harris as the tiebreaker, Democrats are in control — but if every Republican unites in opposition, then she could have to cast those tie-breaking votes relatively often.

Johnson characterized his demand for the reading of the full legislation as some kind of effort to ensure that the American people know what’s in the bill. This notion is laughable — observers aren’t exactly lining up to believe that Johnson’s constituents were eagerly watching the rote reading of the bill past midnight on Friday morning. The text, like the overwhelming majority of legislation, is available online if people are interested! Johnson’s excuse for his stunt is as flimsy as ever, although Republicans seem undeterred — on Friday, Republican Senators planned “several hundred attempts” to get votes on amendments to the legislation that don’t have a chance of actually passing, MSNBC explained. The stunt is another delay tactic and could drag out the process for hours on end.