Senate Republicans – starting with a reading of the entire stimulus package on Thursday – have tried to incorporate the legislative process into the bill as much as possible to make Democrats uncomfortable.
However, it also means they are delaying legislation in the midst of a public health crisis as millions of people and thousands of businesses await help from Congress.
In an effort led by Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), Republicans asked Senate officials to read the full 628-page stimulus bill Thursday. This practice is acceptable for any action, but is often skipped because it is time consuming. And on Friday, Republicans are preparing for a “Vote-a-Rama,” where they’ll offer amendments after amendments in a stacked series of votes the Senate must hold – so much so that some lawmakers believe they are this could be the longest the Chamber has ever held out.
“It’s indefinite, you know? Lots of people wanting to offer lots of amendments and … who knows when it’s going to start, “Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) recently told reporters.
Such tactics were common in the budget vote process, which otherwise undermines some of the minority party’s power over the Senate and which the Democrats use to pass the bill while avoiding the filibuster. Since the process can be used to circumvent them, the minority party often uses the process to send a message of their rejection of the present bill. In 2017, for example, the Democrats used changes in the vote to show their support for the Affordable Care Bill when Republicans tried to repeal it.
“Vote-a-rama is the punishment that the minority party imposes on the majority party for using the streamlined processes set out in the budgetary process and reconciliation,” Zach Moller, former Senate Budget Committee member, previously told Marketplace.
However, the current delays are also taking place in an urgent context: as Republicans seek to prolong the review of the bill, people continue to suffer severe economic and health consequences, and Congress is racing to meet the March 14 deadline . With increased unemployment insurance support expected to expire on that day, lawmakers are trying to swiftly approve the bill to avoid crossing this cliff, which would jeopardize the benefits of around 12 million people.
The next steps for Covid-19 relief are briefly explained
The Senate faces a long few days and nights as lawmakers finalize the reconciliation process this week. After the upper chamber approved a motion to continue the Covid-19 law on Thursday, it takes the following steps before voting on its passage:
Republicans on Thursday asked for the bill to be read in full: Johnson had previously urged that all 628 pages of legislation be read on the grounds that there should be transparency about what it contains. And his request ultimately added over 10 hours to the legislative process. “If you want to increase the national debt by almost 2 tons, we should at least know what is in the bill,” wrote Johnson on Twitter. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, meanwhile, countered that his efforts would not change the outcome. “We all know this will only delay the inevitable. It will do little more than a sore throat for the Senate employees who work very hard, ”he said.
The Senate will discuss the bill for three hours: According to the rules for budgetary voting, the legislature has up to 20 hours to discuss the provisions in the bill and, after the reading is complete, to discuss their respective arguments. However, the Senators have agreed to shorten this window to three hours.
There will be a vote to change the marathon amendment: The Democratic legislators have already largely worked out the major changes to the House’s legislation, but the Senators have the opportunity to vote on further amendments after the three hours of debate. This exercise, which involves successive votes on a number of topics, will include amendments related to Covid-19 aid, as well as many that are purely intended to force a vote on a controversial issue: In February, Republicans have amendments to Pack up the space and support the Keystone XL pipeline.
The legislature will finalize the legislation and send it back to the house: After the Senate approves the legislation, the House must also approve the new version of the bill before it is submitted to President Joe Biden for signature.
There’s a lot at stake in this aid package for Covid-19, which includes $ 1,400 stimulus checks, $ 400 extended weekly unemployment insurance, and $ 350 billion in state and local aid. So far, Democrats have been unanimous in their attempts to move it forward – and depending on whether GOP senators sign up, they may have to pass it on themselves.
Many Republicans, meanwhile, seem perfectly open to dawdling on the legislation, despite the critical support it would provide to many in need.