Senate to begin massive vote-a-rama on COVID relief as Republicans seek to stall

The Senate on Friday will begin a massive vote-a-rama on amendments to President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan as Republicans look to delay a final vote on the legislation.

Republican senators are expected to offer multiple amendments to the bill, which Democrats claim is necessary to help the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. The GOP protests the bill's cost and claim it's filled with progressive priorities.

As part of their objections they are using the legislative process to delay a final vote as long as possible. On Thursday, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin demanded clerks read the entire 628 page bill aloud. 

The process  - in which three clerks took turns reading the text aloud in a monotone that threatened to put lawmakers to sleep - took 10 hours and 44 minutes. It began at 3:20 p.m. on Thursday and ended at 2:04 a.m. in the early hours of Friday morning.

Now senators can proceed to debating the legislation, which includes the vote-a-rama, a series of votes on blocks of amendments that could last well into Friday night.

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Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer

The Senate on Friday will begin a massive vote-a-rama on amendments from Republicans, led by GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell that will challenge Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's to keep Democrats together

Amendments come after Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin demanded clerks read the entire 628 page bill aloud - it took them 10 hours and 44 minutes, beginning at 3:20 p.m. on Thursday and ended at 2:04 a.m. early Friday morning

Amendments come after Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin demanded clerks read the entire 628 page bill aloud - it took them 10 hours and 44 minutes, beginning at 3:20 p.m. on Thursday and ended at 2:04 a.m. early Friday morning

Republicans plan to use their amendments to put Democrats in a tough spot, forcing them to vote on-the-record on a series of issues and challenging the party to stay united throughout the votes. 

Asked how long the vote-a-rama could take, Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota said: 'It's indefinite. You've got lots of people who want to offer lots of amendments.' 

Democrats have vowed to press forward no matter the delays. 

'No matter how long it takes, the Senate is going to stay in session to finish the bill this week,' Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Thursday. 

And it's not just Republicans who will test Democratic unity.

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Sen. Bernie Sanders will offer an amendment to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next five years. It's an issue that's a priority for progressives but a no-go for moderates. 

The wage hike is in the House version of the legislation but it had to be taken out of the Senate version. 

The Senate is using a legislative process called reconciliation to pass the legislation, which keeps Republicans from filibustering it but opens it up to a long amendment process and narrows the scope of what can be included. The Senate parliamentarian ruled the $15 wage hike doesn't meet the thresh hold for inclusion as it must have a budgetary effect. 

Additionally, moderate Democrats are expected to offer an amendment lowering weekly federal unemployment benefits to $300 from $400. 

The vote-a-rama is the last hurdle

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