WASHINGTON (thehill): A bill aimed at combating China’s competitiveness is hitting another last-minute snag that is pushing the Senate late into the night and potentially well into Friday.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), backed by a group of fellow conservative senators, threw the bill back into limbo as he refused to let it move forward over frustration that he didn’t get some of his amendments in the package.
“Everybody else seems to have gotten something in this manager’s package,” he said, adding that reporters should expect to be in the Capitol for a “long time.”
He also told reporters that senators needed “time” to “read and consider” what’s been added to the bill.
“How can anybody comprehend that?” Johnson said. “We’re going to try and take as much time as we possibly can so we can fully consider this bill.”
Democrats tried to move forward with the bill, arguing that it had been the product of several committees.
“Our colleagues, our leadership on both sides of the aisle have worked through a process of regular order with our colleagues on a host of 36 different amendments where I’m looking at this list, many of them are bipartisan. And I think those members deserve to have a vote,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the chairwoman of the Commerce Committee.
But the group of GOP senators objected.
“So now here we are at 11 [p.m.], we’ve come to the chamber, for the first time I’ve seen what the amendments are in the managers’ package. I’m sorry. I don’t know what these amendments are. …So you can claim this is regular order. You can claim this is deliberative process, but it’s far from it,” Johnson said.
Johnson asked to delay the package for three hours. And Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) tried to delay the package until after the one-week Memorial Day recess. Cantwell objected to both requests.
“It is time for us to honor the request of our colleagues to move forward on a managers’ package worked out by the leaders and the relevant chair and ranking member,” she said.
Instead, the group of GOP senators are expected to talk for several hours, delaying the China package until at least early morning Friday if not until late morning or early afternoon.
As Johnson started speaking, senators were largely leaving the Capitol planning to get a few hours of sleep. Leadership was telling lawmakers to keep their phones close amid a scatter of predictions about when the next vote would be.
“People are just going to go home. Rest. Sleep,” said Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), as he left the Capitol.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Republican senator, predicted that the bill was largely in limbo until early Friday morning.
“These guys said they are going to use eight hours. I’ll believe it when I see it, but I think it’s going to be awhile,” Thune said.
Once senators return to the Capitol, they’ll still have several procedural votes. And the same group of GOP senators, Thune warned, could want to use up more time later Friday morning.
In addition to Johnson and Scott, they were joined by Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
It’s the latest setback for the China legislation after it was held in limbo for hours earlier Thursday as Schumer cut a deal with Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) on his trade and tariff amendment.
That was ultimately resolved when senators voted overwhelmingly to add Crapo’s proposal into the bill, which was expected to be the last stumbling block before the bill could pass the Senate.
But since then, the bill has been in limbo for hours as leadership has tried to iron out the final package of amendments.
Leadership had been expected to be debating a final package of amendments that could be resolved Thursday night, paving the way for a controversial vote on creating a Jan. 6 amendment.
But it became apparent around 8 p.m. that the bill had run into another snag.
Thune, returning to the Capitol, told reporters that “we have an objection now to doing anything.”
“I’m not sure how we resolve this one,” Thune said, adding that “it’s pretty unsolvable.”
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) confirmed that there was a GOP senator holding up the bill, but declined to discuss it saying he didn’t want to “give it oxygen.”
“Our members are concerned they didn’t get amendments, but I think we’re working through it,” he added, predicting that it would be solved “late tonight.”
Senators were then instructed to come back to the Capitol shortly after 10 p.m., where they huddled on the floor but failed to reach an agreement on a quick path forward.
“I think if you just pick 10 senators at random and ask them off the record, do you know what’s in this bill,” Kennedy said. “Not every word, but do you have a general … idea of everything in this bill? Nine out of 10 will tell you that they don’t and the tenth is probably lying.”