GOP Sen. Johnson makes Dems read all 628 pages of virus relief bill

Wisconsin's Johnson was 'not even listening,' congressional reporter Hugh Lowell observed on Twitter. 'He’s mostly on his phone.'

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson told reporters on Thursday that his tactic of delaying the vote on the highly-anticipated COVID-19 relief package is about “educating” the American people. 

Per his order, the 628 pages of the bill started being read on the floor on Thursday by Congressional clerks. Johnson said he felt bad for those who have to read the document, but that it was “important” to delay the process.

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson speaks during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing in December in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images)

“Republican Sen. Ron Johnson is now the only senator left in the chamber after he forced Senate clerks to read aloud the $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill,” Congressional reporter Hugh Lowell tweeted Thursday afternoon, “and he’s not even listening. He’s mostly on his phone.”

“I’m not sitting here, “South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham told assembled press Thursday, “for reading the bill.” He said Johnson’s futile exercise doesn’t “particularly move the ball forward” and encouraged his fellow Republicans to use the later amendment process to add to the legislation. 

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Other GOPers signaled their support for Johnson’s stunt, including Utah Sen. Mitt Romney and Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma. Neither, however, remained to hear the bill read. 

Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders stood as the reading began and declared, “Good thing we have time during a national emergency to do this.” 

The reading of the COVID-19 relief package is expected to last at least 10 hours. It will be followed by up to 20 hours of debate before, hopefully, passing Friday. Changes made in the Senate will then have to return to the House to be voted on again before it will become law. 

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Democrats are hopeful the laborious process will end before federal unemployment benefits do for millions of Americans during the still-raging coronavirus pandemic. 

Johnson is up for re-election in his home state of Wisconsin, where several Democratic candidates are already lined up to vie for his seat next year.

“Ron Johnson is an unmitigated disaster and a conspiracy nut, among other qualities,” challenger Tom Nelson, a county executive in the state, told Politico. “Every time he opens his mouth, he embarrasses himself and our state.”

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