Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday accused Senate Republicans of showing "contempt" for working class Americans after Sen. Ron Johnson delayed a vote on President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill by forcing Senate floor staff to read all 628 pages of it out loud.
"In the midst of the worst economic, healthcare, and educational crises in the modern history of our country, when we need to respond with urgency, the Republicans are now wasting five hours on the Senate floor."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders
The Hill reports that reading the entire bill could take as long as 10 hours.
While claiming that he felt bad for making Senate clerks read the entire bill, Johnson (R-Wisc.) attempted to justify his action by saying that "so often we rush these massive bills that are hundreds, if not thousands, of pages long."
"Nobody has time to read them," he said, adding that making clerks read the bill was about "educating" the American people about what's in it.
However, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) countered that the tactic "would 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."
Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted that Johnson's move, derided by critics as a cynical stunt, "shows the contempt that Republicans have for the needs of working class Americans."
This shows the contempt Republicans have for the needs of working class Americans. https://t.co/Tu7w6MA7jm
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) March 4, 2021
While some observers argued Johnson ought to be the one reading the bill aloud in the Senate, the Tea Party favorite had no such intentions. In fact, he up and left the room shortly after the reading began.
Johnson had initially demanded Harris restore order in the chamber when senators talked over the reading. He is now no longer in the chamber. https://t.co/YlaIUwPx0k
— Andrew Solender (@AndrewSolender) March 4, 2021
Despite the inconvenience of the reading and the delay in the vote, Democrats took Johnson's move in stride—and not without a dose of deadpan humor.
"Good thing we have time during a national emergency to do this," said Sanders.
Sen. Michael Bennett (D-Colo.) said that he wished Johnson "would use his time to explain to Trump voters that the election wasn't stolen... That'd be a good use of 10 hours of Ron Johnson's time."
One upside to Sen Ron Johnson forcing clerks to read the bill is that everyone will know the claim by GOP that only 9% of the bill addresses the effects from the pandemic is a lie. The entire bill is a relief and stimulus package. Stimulus checks alone are over 22% of the bill. https://t.co/HCQiX2Muys
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) March 4, 2021
Schumer said that "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."