US Vice President , Kamala Harris breaks Senate tie to begin Covid relief package debate – as it happened
Kamala Harris broke a Senate tie to begin debate on the coronavirus relief package. After the Senate deadlocked on whether to take up the package, the vice-president was forced to cast a tie-breaking 51st vote to approve the motion to proceed. Senate clerks are now reading the full text of the 628-page bill.
Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican of Wisconsin, objected to waiving the reading of the 628-page bill in its entirety – in an attempt to delay the process. So, Senate clerks began reading the bill aloud. This will likely take at least a dozen or more hours in total before senators can move to 20 hours of debate on the bill’s content.
The Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, said the chamber would stay in session to pass the relief bill, “no matter how long it takes”. The Democratic leader’s comments come as Republicans have planned a series of maneuvers to delay the final vote on the bill, which may not happen until sometime this weekend.
The US Capitol police has requested a two-month extension to the national guard’s mission at the Capitol, according to a Democratic lawmaker. The guard’s mission, which was launched in response to the 6 January insurrection at the Capitol, had been scheduled to end on March 12.
The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, downplayed the security threats at the Capitol. House leaders altered the voting schedule for the week after the US Capitol police warned of a militia’s potential plot to storm the Capitol today, but Pelosi said the schedule was changed mostly to accommodate Republicans, who were attending their issues conference today.
The White House defended Joe Biden accusing Republican governors of “Neanderthal thinking” after they rescinded mask mandates. The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said the president’s comments were “a reflection of his frustration and exasperation” about the governors ignoring public health guidance on limiting the spread of coronavirus.