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Previous story Senate takes up COVID-19 relief package as GOP aims to block passage Next story

STORY BY ALLISON PECORIN

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Published on March 5, 2021 1:27 AM

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Shawn Thew/EPA via Shutterstock Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer concludes his remarks during a press conference following the Senate Democratic policy luncheon in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C, March 2, 2021.
The Senate began its consideration of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill Thursday, but before voting on President Joe Biden's signature legislation, Republicans who claim the bill is massive and won't address issues related to the pandemic have set the stage for a lengthy series of procedural measures designed to slow down momentum.

Democrats are projecting that they will hold together and vote unanimously in favor of the aid after Biden made concessions to appease the moderates. If they stick together, there's little the GOP can do to prevent it from passing in the evenly divided Senate.

But that won't stop Republicans from fighting to make passage an arduous affair.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., announced his intent to extend the length of debate by several hours by requiring the Senate clerk to read the nearly 600-page bill aloud in full. Aides estimated this could take somewhere between eight and 10 hours.

Final bill text and cost estimations were not yet available to senators and Johnson said he was requesting the full reading of the bill in order to give staffers and lawmakers more time to familiarize themselves with what is in the bill and to propose additional amendments.

"I feel bad for the clerks are going have to read it, but it's just important. You so -- so often we rush these massive bills that are hundreds of thousands of pages long. You don't have time. Nobody has time to read them," Johnson said. "This will give everybody time to consider what the provisions are."

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer criticized Johnson for using a delay tactic.

"We all know this will merely delay the inevitable," Schumer said. "It will accomplish little more than a few sore throats for the Senate clerk."

Republicans also plan to offer a laundry list of amendments to make good on Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's promise that Republicans will be "fighting in every way we can" to block the bill.

The last marathon-voting session on a bill lasted about 15 hours. Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., called that a "warm-up session" for what's to come on the vote for final passage.

"There's going to be a lot of amendments," Braun said. "You're going to have a lot of amendments you're going to have a lot of stuff that's going to be struck through an amendment, but whether we get anywhere on that I'm not sure."