AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN

Why is Sen. Ron Johnson proving unpopular during the Senate stimulus check debate?

The Senate is preparing to vote on President Biden's American Rescue Plan but Republicans appear determined to delay voting for as long as possible.

Why is Sen. Ron Johnson proving unpopular during the Senate stimulus check debate?
ERIN SCOTT AFP

On Thursday the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill was finally introduced in the Senate after weeks of negotiations in Congress. But although the House of Representatives has already passed the proposal and the Democrats appear to have enough votes in the Senate, the Republicans are putting up some late resistance.

The proposal is widely popular across the country and has even garnered strong support from Republican voters. A recent Politico/Morning Consult poll suggests that 76% of all Americans support the legislation, with 60% of Republicans also backing Biden’s plan. 

Senate delay while stimulus bill is read aloud

Central to the Republican opposition is GOP Senator Ron Johnson, who has insisted that Senate clerks read out every single word of the 628-page bill before members can even begin the debate. Senators do have the right to request this but it is a formality that is almost always avoided to save time.

It is expected to take up to 10 hours for the entire stimulus bill to be read, which will probably mean that the Senate vote is pushed back to the weekend at the earliest. In justifying the move, Johnson said he was “educating” the American public about the contents of the bill, and decried the fact that “so often we rush these massive bills”.

While the tactic has been universally criticised by the Democrats some Republican Senators have voiced their support Johnson, with both Sen. Mitt Romney and Sen. James Lankford doing so in recent hours. Lankford said he was “absolutely supportive” of the move because it gave senators the opportunity to hear the full text. Johnson was the only Republican who remained in the chamber when the reading began on Thursday afternoon.

This ploy is just the latest attempt by Republicans to disrupt the passing of the American Rescue Plan, which will see $1,400 stimulus checks sent to around 150 million eligible Americans.

Earlier on Thursday all 50 Republicans voted against allowing the stimulus bill to reach the Senate floor. Vice President Kamala Harris was required to provide a tie-breaking vote to ensure the legislative process could continue.

Sen Johnson courts controversy yet again

Frustrating attempts to get the third stimulus check finally passed has proved very unpopular but Johnson has appeared willing to take the criticism in recent weeks. In a recent interview with CNN, Johnson admitted: "I think it's obvious that I'm target number one here… People are out to destroy me."

Much of his unpopularity comes from his repeated excuses in the face of mounting evidence that former President Donald Trump and his supporters were culpable for the Capitol Hill riots of 6 January 2021.

In the course of his denial Johnson has hit out at Democrats, the mainstream media and even his Party’s Senate Leader Mitch McConnell. He has even forwarded conspiracy theories that content that Trump supporters were not the ones who initiated the violence that left five people dead.

Johnson’s place in the Senate is up for re-election in 2022 and he appears to be tying his candidacy to the fortunes of Trump, who maintains huge sway over the Republican Party.

"I've always aligned myself with the people who supported Trump," Johnson told reporters recently. "That's how I view it."