The US Senate is looking at a long weekend following a Thursday procedural vote to begin formal debate on the pork-filled COVID-19 stimulus package.
As MarketWatch notes, Senators "used to leaving Washington on Thursday afternoons, were resigning themselves to the prospect of late nights and long hours going into this weekend," as they do their jobs while Democrats push to approve the $1.9 trillion legislation before various federal benefits are set to lapse in less than two weeks.
"No matter how long it takes, the Senate is going to stay in session to finish the bill this week. The American people deserve nothing less," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) as the chamber began its Thursday legislative session.
The chamber is expected to have a procedural vote to begin formal debate on the plan this afternoon. Also, Schumer is set to unveil his package of tweaks and changes to the bill the House sent over after it was approved on a mostly party-line 219-212 vote last week.
Some changes in the bill have already been discussed among Democrats, like lowering the top income limits that individuals and joint tax filers can make and still be eligible for the $1,400 per person stimulus payments. Others are likely to be made, which will ultimately require a signoff in the House when the bill lands back there for a final vote before being sent to President Joe Biden to be signed into law. -MarketWatch
At the earliest, passage through the Senate won't happen until late Friday or early Saturday.
The bill will receive 20 hours of formal debate time under Senate rules. Once expired, senators will be able to offer an unlimited number of amendments in what is known as a "vote-a-rama" marathon session of amendment votes following just two minutes of debate. Once senator are tired of doing this - typically after 12 hours or so - the process will end.
Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is threatening to drag the vota-a-rama process out as long as possible, telling C-SPAN in a Thursday interview that amendments which aren't formally offered on the floor, yet which are still filed, should also receive votes.
"That’s what vote-a-rama’s supposed to be – an unlimited number of amendments. We should consider every amendment offered," he said, according to MarketWatch.
Johnson could also require that all 600 pages of the bill be read aloud by Senate clerks - which would take an estimated 10 hours on top of the regular debate time and the vote-a-rama.
"I feel bad for the clerks that are going to have to read it, but it’s just important," Johnson added - to which Schumer replied "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."