It’s been a day in the United States Senate. Yesterday, Republican senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin singlehandedly delayed the arrival of your next stimulus check when he employed an arcane Senate rule to require that clerks read aloud the 628-page American Rescue Plan in its entirety. This took until after 2 a.m., thereby pushing back debate on the stimulus bill to today. Here’s the latest update on the coronavirus relief package as we head into the weekend:
Johnson essentially used your tax dollars to hold the Senate hostage for an out-loud reading of a 100,000-word bill, which took 10 hours and 44 minutes. (When he demanded the reading, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer reportedly muttered, “Is he allowed?”)
Is he allowed?
Yes. Today he will be forcing votes on a number of amendments, with the open intent of further prolonging the process.
So what’s happening now?
Vote-a-rama. Senators are wading through dozens or hundreds of amendments to the bill. Democrats have enough votes to pass the bill. The Republican amendments are designed to bog down the process, reveal fractures within the Democratic Party on specific issues, and create fodder for future campaign ads.
How long will this go on?
Oh, they’re just getting started. At least until the wee hours. Senators usually work French hours, Monday through early afternoon on Thursday, with many flying home to their families on weekends. Between yesterday’s read-aloud story time and today’s vote-a-rama, senators are grounded in Washington for the weekend.
Why is this bananas process happening?
This bill has essentially no Republican support. Yesterday all Senate Republicans voted against starting debate, and no Republicans voted for its passing in the House. Congress is a rat’s nest of abstruse rules that can be used to delay and annoy, which is what’s happening.
Cut to the chase: When are checks coming?
If vote-a-rama goes smoothly—big “if”—the bill could be a done deal as early as Saturday, which would set you up to receive a check this month.
I’m definitely getting a check if I got one last time, right?
Unfortunately, not necessarily: This week, the income caps were lowered, so individuals earning more than $80,000 and couples earning more than $160,000 will not receive checks. That cuts out an estimated 17 million recipients. More details on that here.
What about unemployment? Any updates there?
Yes. As of Friday afternoon, Democrats had extended the extra $300 in weekly unemployment payments until October 4—this avoids the risk of the benefit expiring while senators are exercising more of their French work habits during summer recess in August—but dropped their efforts to increase the amount from $300 to $400. Another piece of good news: Most of it will not be taxable—$10,200.
We’ll keep you updated with the latest details as they unfold.