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Sen. Ron Johnson delays debate on COVID stimulus bill by forcing clerks to read 628-page bill aloud

Sen. Ron Johnson
Posted at 11:14 AM, Mar 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-05 07:26:21-05

Debate on a Democrat-backed $1.9 trillion dollar COVID-19 relief bill formally began on Thursday. But before proceedings could formally get underway, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., forced a 10-hour delay by asking clerks to read the entire bill aloud on the Senate floor.

According to The New York Times, the task of reading the 628-page bill aloud fell to John Merlino, the Senate's legislative clerk.

USA Today reports that Johnson was the only Republican lawmaker who remained in the chamber while Merlino tediously read the text of the bill.

Several Republican senators, like Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma told USA Today that they support the reading of the bill.

Members of the Democratic caucus like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., were upset by Johnson's decision.

"Good thing we have time during a national emergency to do this," Sanders told a colleague as he left the chamber, according to USA Today.

According to CNN, the reading of the bill concluded at 2:05 a.m. ET Friday morning.

In a tweet Wednesday night, Johnson argued that the bill should be read aloud because he claimed too much of the funding included in the bill isn't related directly to COVID-19.

Now that the bill has been read, 20 hours of formal debate begins. The Senate is expected to narrowly pass the stimulus bill, which will then require another vote in the House before landing on the desk of President Joe Biden.

The "American Rescue Plan" would include $1,400 checks for individuals who earn less than $75,000 a year or couples who earn less than $150,000 a year.

On Wednesday, Senate Democrats agreed to halt the payments completely for individuals making $80,000 and couples earning $160,000. Previously, Democrats hoped to phase direct payments down to individuals earning $100,000 and couples earning $200,000.

The bill would also extend $400 weekly emergency unemployment benefits.

This story was originally published by Abigail Hantke on WGBA in Green Bay, Wisconsin.