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Bernie Sanders Slams Ron Johnson After Republican Forces Reading of 628-Page Coronavirus Relief Bill on Senate Floor

"Good thing we have time during a national emergency to do this," quipped the independent senator from Vermont.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) speaks during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee confirmation hearing for Neera Tanden, nominee for director of the Office and Management and Budget (OMB), on February 9, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Ting Shen/Getty Images)

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) came under fire after forcing the reading of the entire 628-page coronavirus relief bill on the Senate floor on March 4, 2021. (Photo: Ting Shen/Getty Images)

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."

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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.

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."

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." 

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