The US Senate is moving forward with the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, AKA the American Rescue Plan, aka the MONEY FOR 'MERICA PLS JOE BIDEN bill, despite This One Stupid Republican Trick that was intended to drag out the process forever, but ultimately failed. Let's look at where the hell we are with this thing, which will probably see a final vote late tonight or possibly over the weekend, depending on how much time Republicans and a few of our favorite Dems devote to delaying help for millions of Americans who are suffering through the pandemic and the resulting economic recession, both of which Republicans have made worse for the last year. It's a shitty agenda for them, but we suppose it's nice they can unify around something. (It is in no sense of the word nice.)

The bill was initially moved forward for debate yesterday on a 51-50 vote, with Vice President Kamala Harris providing her first tie-breaking vote, not that we're planning on keeping a running tally from here on. Then, rather than actually beginning debate, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-He Comes From Wisconsin) started the delaying tactics, because there's nothing more important to Republicans than stopping this terrible partisan relief bill that includes pretty much the same sorts of things the two previous stimulus bills did, except now the president is a Demmycrat. Johnson deployed a weird little Senate rule that forced the clerks to read the entire 628-page bill aloud, not that Republicans stayed to listen, because that wasn't the point. The point was delay for delay's sake.

The reading took 11 hours in all, and when that was finally finished in the wee hours this morning, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer congratulated the Senate clerks for their endurance, noting "I can't imagine that's anyone's idea of a good time." However, the delaying tactic actually ended up backfiring for Senate Rs. Since very few Republicans could be arsed to actually hang around until the marathon reading session ended, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) introduced a motion to shorten what would have been 20 hours of debate to just three today, so Johnson's delaying tactic ultimately moved the clock forward a net six hours.

This is where history nerds will note that the Korean War took place because the USSR was boycotting UN Security Council meetings at the time, making possible the 1950 vote to send UN forces to Korea. The Soviets never missed a Security Council vote again. We'd imagine Senate Republicans may pledge to be a bit more diligent in their fuckery going forward, but we aren't sure they have the perseverance of the original Evil Empire.

In the lead-up to today's three hours of debate, there has been another goddamn "compromise," apparently driven by the Manchin wing of Senate Dems; this time, instead of the House bill's plan to increase the emergency federal unemployment benefit to $400 a week through the end of August, the amount the federal government will pay over state benefits will remain at $300 a week, but the payments will extend through the end of September. Not that Republicans will suddenly fall in love with the bill. As with the narrowed eligibility for individual payments, we can only ask the party leaders Why the fuck are you doing this? The Republicans aren't going to stop their stupid delaying tactics, for fuckssake.

USA Today reports that

progressive and moderate Democrats agreeing to the amendment comes after moderate Republicans, like Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah., told reporters Thursday he thinks "there would be Republicans who would agree to bring the number down."

That seems pretty fucking unlikely, to be honest. If any Republican signs on as a result, we will let you know, at least if we can be heard over the furious oinking of all the flying pigs.

The change did come along with one sweetener, at least; the first $10,200 of those emergency unemployment benefits will now be non-taxable, which should head off some unpleasant surprises as people who are unemployed now do their taxes next year.

Currently, we're in one more round of vote-a-rama in progress, in which any senator can offer an amendment, and Republicans will bring as many amendments to the bill as they can think of, on everything from abortion to cutting Amtrak funding (you know, to rub it in the face of that train-loving socialist Joe Biden). The entire exercise is pointless, since at the end of the process, Chuck Schumer can introduce his own amendment to strip out any amendments he doesn't like. Kamala Harris will no doubt be kept very busy breaking ties this afternoon and evening.

As expected, Bernie Sanders brought up an amendment to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025; it was voted down, as expected, although we didn't really expect eight Democrats to vote against it. Here's the list of people to be pissed at, for future reference:

  • Jon Tester, Montana
  • Joe Manchin, West Duh Of Course
  • Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona
  • Angus King, Maine (Independent, caucuses with Democrats)
  • Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire
  • Maggie Hassan, New Hampshire
  • Tom Carper, Delaware
  • Chris Coons, Delaware and we thought we liked you [no we didn't Dok, you were mistaken — Editrix].

Now, we know that Sen. Sinema is OK with a minimum wage increase but just doesn't want to include it in the stimmy bill, so we bet she'd be happy to introduce it as a standalone bill, right? RIGHT?

Final passage of the Senate bill will likely come either late late late tonight (Republicans will keep offering pointless amendments in hopes of complaining it "passed in the dead of night") or sometime over the weekend, then the bill heads back to the House for a vote on the version passed by the Senate. The plan is to get the whole mess passed and to Biden before March 14, when the current unemployment benefits expire.

We would add in a very funny joke imagining some insane change Joe Manchin might demand at the last minute, but we have enough experience with magical thinking to know better.

[CNN / USA Today / NYT]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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