Democrats' $1.9 Trillion, 628 Page COVID Package Read Aloud on the Senate Floor
How do you feel about the bill being read aloud on the Senate floor?
by Causes | 3.5.21
- After 10 hours and 43 minutes of reading and numerous rotations, the Senate clerks completed the reading of Democrats' 628 page, $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.
- Rather than beginning 20 hours of debate, the Senate yielded back all but 3 of those hours and will commence the "vote-a-rama" on amendments around noon on Friday.
What’s the story?
- Senators and interested members of the general public have the opportunity to listen to a reading of Democrats’ 628 page substitute amendment to the $1.9 trillion coronavirus (COVID-19) relief package while the chamber is in session Thursday, and perhaps into Friday morning.
- The reading comes at the request of Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) who said, “I feel bad for the clerks that are going to have to read it, but it’s just important.” He added:
“So often, we rush these massive bills that are hundreds if not thousands of pages long. You don’t have time, nobody has time to read them. So, you start considering something you haven’t even read. At a minimum, somebody ought to read it and this will give everybody time.”
- The Senate’s floor proceedings are broadcast live on C-SPAN2, so you can check in on the reading there.
How did the reading come about?
- By rule, a bill is read three times in the Senate before a vote on its passage occurs, but ordinarily, the senator managing the floor debate asks for unanimous consent that the reading be dispensed with and no senators object.
- The same holds true for amendments to a bill, in this case, a substitute amendment that replaces the entire legislative text of the House-passed version of the package.
- The reading continues until the clerks finish reading the legislation, however long it takes, or the senator(s) who initiated the reading don’t object to a unanimous consent request that the reading be dispensed with.
- This isn’t the first time in the modern era that senators have forced legislation to be read aloud on the floor. The most recent example occurred in December 2017, when Democrats forced the reading of Republicans’ 185 page tax reform package, which eventually became the last bill to be enacted through the reconciliation process.
How long is the reading expected to take?
- Initial projections of the reading time ranged from about 5 hours to 10 hours.
- The reading began at 3:21pm EST, and after two hours of reading the rotation of clerks have powered through 98 pages of legislative text. That puts them on pace to complete the entire bill in just under 13 hours.
What’s next in the debate?
- Whenever the reading of the bill ends, the Senate will begin up to 20 hours of debate on the package.
- After that debate period concludes or senators yield back time, the Senate will begin a “vote-a-rama” in which the chamber votes continuously on amendments offered by senators.
- The last vote-a-rama lasted about 15 hours, although Johnson and other Republicans are planning a bid to continue the voting for multiple days.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Johnson: Gage Skidmore via Flickr / Creative Commons)
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