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Sen. Ron Johnson. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Senate on Thursday voted 51-50 — with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie — to proceed to debate on President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package, likely setting up a final vote this weekend.

The state of play: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) forced Senate clerks to read the entire 628-page bill on the floor, which took nearly 11 hours and lasted until 2:04 a.m. on Friday. The Senate is set to return at 9 a.m. to debate the bill before considering amendments, which could drag into the weekend.

  • Republicans are expected to propose a number of amendments — some unrelated to COVID relief — intended to force uncomfortable votes for Democrats, in a practice known as vote-a-rama.
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) promised Thursday that the Senate will stay in session "no matter how long it takes" to finish voting on the "American Rescue Plan."
  • Because the bill is being considered under the budget reconciliation process, it only requires a simple majority to pass, rather than the usual 60-vote Senate threshold for major legislation.

What they're saying: Speaking on the Senate floor ahead of the vote to proceed, Schumer accused Johnson of going to "ridiculous lengths" to show his opposition to a COVID relief package widely supported by the American public — including a majority of Republicans.

  • "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," Schumer said.
  • "Still, 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," he continued.
  • "Oh, yes, when the senior senator from Wisconsin reads, the American people will get another chance to hear about the tax breaks for low-income workers, and assistance for American families struggling with child care — two measures that help make the American Rescue Plan one of the single largest anti-poverty bills in recent history."

Johnson defended his move, saying he was trying to “make this a more deliberative process.”

  • "I feel bad for the clerks that are going to have to read it, but it's just important," he told reporters on Thursday.

Go deeper: Senate Republicans plan to exact pain before COVID relief vote

Go deeper

Mar 4, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans plan to exact pain before COVID relief vote

Sen. Ron Johnson. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Republicans are demanding a full, 600-page bill reading — and painful, multi-hour "vote-a-rama" — as Democrats forge ahead with their plan to pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Why it matters: The procedural war is aimed at forcing Democrats to defend several parts the GOP considers unnecessary and partisan. While the process won't substantially impact the final version of the mammoth bill, it'll provide plenty of ammunition for future campaign messaging.

Democrats eye reconciliation for immigration

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Comprehensive immigration reform is a pipe dream, but some Senate Democrats are hoping to tie key immigration provisions to the next big reconciliation push.

Why it matters: Immigration is one of the most controversial and partisan issues in U.S. politics, which is why the budget reconciliation process — which allows for bills to pass the Senate with a simple majority rather than the usual 60 votes — is so attractive.

House passes sweeping election and anti-corruption bill

Photo: Win McNamee via Getty Images

The House voted 220-210 Wednesday to pass Democrats' expansive election and anti-corruption bill.

Why it matters: Expanding voting access has been a top priority for Democrats for years, but the House passage of the For the People Act (H.R. 1) comes as states across the country consider legislation to rollback voting access in the aftermath of former President Trump's loss.