Republican Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.) insisted Thursday that Democrats' 628-page, $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill be read aloud in the Senate, arguing that "the American people deserve to know what's in it."
CNN called the move, which is expected to take roughly 10 hours, "pointless obstruction."
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Johnson warned Wednesday that he would "make the Senate clerk" read every page of the bill, saying "we need to highlight the abuse" and calling the package "a boondoggle for Democrats."
He argued, "Since more than 90% of this 'COVID relief' bill is not even related to COVID, I think we need a full reading of the bill. Yes, it could take 10 hours but the American people deserve to know what's in it."
On Thursday, the Wisconsin Republican kept his word. After a 51-50 vote to proceed on opening debate the bill — with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie — Johnson forced the bill to be read. He also noted that he does "feel bad for the clerks."
The Hill pointed out that "typically, the Senate waives the full reading of bills or amendments."
"If they're going to add nearly $2T to the national debt at least we should know what's in the bill," Johnson tweeted after he insisted the bill be read aloud.
CNN editor-at-large Chris Cillizza wrote that Johnson's move was part of Republicans' "new strategy" of "pointless obstruction."
Cillizza said Johnson's insistence that the bill be read aloud was "a procedural maneuver design[ed] to stall the eventual vote on the measure but without any goal beyond that."
But Johnson said he does have a goal. Beyond exposing to the public what is in the massive bill, the senator said it would also buy time for senators to formulate amendments to the legislation.
Iowa GOP Sen. Joni Ernst explained, "We're really going to continue to hammer on all the nonsense that's non-COVID related that has been packed into this Democratic wish list."
She added, "I think you're going to see a lot of amendments coming from our members, and they're going to be good, solid amendments — trying to decrease some of the line-item funding that you see in non-COVID items as well as trying to make more sensible adjustments to the rest of the package."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D) said Thursday, "A few of my Republican colleagues are going to some pretty ridiculous lengths to showcase their opposition."
"Still," he continued, "we are delighted that the Senator from Wisconsin wants to give the American people another opportunity to hear what's in the American Rescue Plan. We Democrats want America to hear what's in the plan. And if the senator from Wisconsin wants to read it, let everybody listen because it has overwhelming support."