Remember when some politician somewhere promised that there would be some new version of a covid relief bill, which would please everyone and result in checks of either $1400 or $2000 in March and we’d all live happily vaccinated ever after?
Well, it’s March and the government is no closer to a resolution on how to help Americans who can’t pay their rent, get childcare for their children, and are at the bottom of the never-ending list for vaccines. Business as usual. Democrats in the Senate have presented their latest version of the covid-relief bill (absent a $15 minimum wage hike, with $1400 not $2000 checks) by stringing together as many votes as possible. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has placed the proposal in the hands of Republican members who now get to debate on it, quite literally, for as long as they see fit before even casting a vote. According to Politico, Schumer plans to keep the Senate in session until a decision is reached—to which Republicans have communally replied, “That’s what you think.”
“Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) immediately forced the Senate clerk to read all 628 pages of the Senate substitute,” according to Politico, a process that could take up to six hours. Republicans will then have “up to 20 hours” to debate amongst themselves before they will have to vote—not on the actual proposal, mind you, but on amendments. The number of amendments they’re allowed to put forth is “unlimited.”
So while parents bash their foreheads into keyboards trying to help their children through virtual school and renters Google squatting laws in their state, Republicans will be listening to a dramatic reading of a 600-hundred page document for no other reason than they can. Or as Schumer put it, enacting a delay tactic that “will accomplish little more than a few sore throats for the Senate clerks.”
In reality, if Republicans are well and truly committed to delaying this bill, a few sore throats will be the least of anyone’s problems. Throughout the pandemic Americans who have applied for unemployment benefits have been receiving an additional bonus payment of $600, which for some people has made a dramatic difference. Those bonus payments are set to expire on March 14th and if the bill isn’t passed before then, bonus payments can lapse, worsening the financial situation for millions of people. Not to mention, the relief bill isn’t even offering a $600 bonus but instead a $400 one which can be whittled down further during the debate process.