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Biden will publicly pitch Covid relief bill as it is debated in the Senate

The plea will take place a day after Republicans required the 628-page legislation be read aloud

Graig Graziosi
Friday 05 March 2021 16:14 GMT
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Kamala Harris breaks Senate tie to proceed with Covid relief bill

Joe Biden plans to publicly pitch the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief measure currently being debated in the Senate.

The president scheduled the pitch for Friday afternoon at the White House where he will hold a roundtable on his American Rescue Plan.

Despite Mr Biden's hopes that he can bring Republicans to the table and reason with them, it appears Senate GOP members have already begun obstructing the legislation's passage.

The Senate began discussion of the legislation on Thursday. Republican Senator Ron Johnson requested that the entire 628-page bill be read aloud by Senate clerks, which pushed their session late into the night. The senators broke for the evening shortly after 2am, and will resume discussing the package on Friday.

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer criticised the stunt, saying that it would not derail the passage of the stimulus.

"It will accomplish little more than a few sore throats for the Senate clerks who work very hard day in, day out to help the Senate function," Sen. Schumer said.

The Democratic leader then promoted the bill while trying to shame Sen. Johnson.

"Still, 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," Mr Schumer said.

"Oh, yes, when the senior senator from Wisconsin reads, the American people will get another chance to hear about the tax breaks for low-income workers, and assistance for American families struggling with child care — two measures that help make the American Rescue Plan one of the single largest anti-poverty bills in recent history."

Mr Johnson defended himself by saying the action made the legislative move a "more deliberative process".

"I feel bad for the clerks that are going to have to read it, but it's just important," Mr Johnson told reporters on Thursday.

Republicans are also expected to propose a number of amendments to adjoin to the legislation, some of which are expected not be Covid-related, in an effort to put their Democratic colleagues in uncomfortable voting positions. GOP lawmakers have complained that Democrats have filled the relief bill with measures unrelated to Covid, like $350billion in funding for local and state governments.

Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he opposed the $1,400 direct payment to Americans included in the bill because he worried that the one-time payment might dissuade "some people from wanting to work".

"There is a concern about making it more advantageous to stay home rather than going back to work," Mr McConnell said. "If we could do it all over again, we—meaning Republicans—may offer an alternative that we think fits the situation. And it's considerably less than $1.9 trillion. Five, maybe $600 billion, which is still an enormous amount of money."

Mr McConnell twice attempted to introduce his own "skinny" version of the relief package last year that only included $500bn in benefits. His plans did not include direct payments to Americans.

The Senate Minority Leader predicted that when the legislators vote on the bill, no Republicans will cross-over to vote alongside the Democrats.

Majority Leader Schumer said the Senate will stay in sessions for as long as it takes for the lawmakers to pass the measure, which only requires a simple majority to pass, rather than 60 votes.

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