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Covid Relief Bill: US Capitol on high alert before marathon Senate voting session

The Senate is gearing up for a marathon voting session on Thursday for President Joe Biden‘s $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill as the Capitol remains on high alert for potential unrest from Trump supporters.

And Vice President Kamala Harris may need to be on hand to break any ties in the evenly-divided 50-50 chamber.

Senators may have a late night ahead of them as a series of amendments are expected to be offered to the legislation and it remains unclear when there will be a final vote on the thirteen figure package.  

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives canceled its votes scheduled for Thursday after U.S. Capitol Police revealed it has received intelligence reports that indicated ‘a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group.’

‘The decision was made that it was possible to finish all of the House’s legislative work for the week tonight,’ said the office of House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer, on Wednesday. He sets the voting schedule.  

Thursday is predicted by followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory to be the day that Donald Trump will take power again, returning to D.C. to be inaugurated as president once more. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer

Vice President Kamala Harris

Vice President Kamala Harris

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will lead the Senate through a series of votes on the COVID relief legislation Thursday and Vice President Kamala Harris may need to be on hand to break any tie votes

Capitol remains on high alert for potential unrest from Trump supporters with members of the National Guard on patrol

Capitol remains on high alert for potential unrest from Trump supporters with members of the National Guard on patrol

Capitol remains on high alert for potential unrest from Trump supporters with members of the National Guard on patrol

National Guard members on alert in front of the Capitol on Thursday ahead of reports of potential unrest from Donald Trump supporters

National Guard members on alert in front of the Capitol on Thursday ahead of reports of potential unrest from Donald Trump supporters

National Guard members on alert in front of the Capitol on Thursday ahead of reports of potential unrest from Donald Trump supporters

US Capitol Police said they received intelligence reports on a possible threat for March 4 - the day QAnon supporters claim Donald Trump will be inaugurated president

US Capitol Police said they received intelligence reports on a possible threat for March 4 - the day QAnon supporters claim Donald Trump will be inaugurated president

US Capitol Police said they received intelligence reports on a possible threat for March 4 – the day QAnon supporters claim Donald Trump will be inaugurated president

March 4 as been branded by QAnon loyalists as ‘real Inauguration Day’ as it was the date formerly scheduled for the event until 1933. 

Security is being beefed up around the Capitol out of fears there could be a situation similar to January 6 – when pro-Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, resulting in five dead and a wake of destruction in the building. 

Lawmakers were forced to flee their chambers and go into hiding as rioters swarmed the building, some waving Confederate flags or Trump signs.  Some shouted ‘where’s Mike’ as they searched for then Vice President Mike Pence, who was rushed from the Senate floor moments after the Capitol was breached. The rioters came within a hundred feet of Pence and several yelled ‘Hang Mike Pence’ as they searched for him. 

There’s a much tighter security perimeter for Thursday compared to January 6th, however. Anti-climbing fencing topped with razor wire surrounds the Capitol Hill complex. Lawmakers, staff and media must enter through check points manned by armed National Guard troops. 

Under the heavy arm of security, the Senate will be focused on the relief package with a day of rigorous debate and parliamentary procedure.  

Senate Republicans have denounced the legislation as too expensive and filled with liberal priorities. They have vowed to hold up a final vote on it as long as possible. 

Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is threatening to force Senate clerks to read through the entire 600-700 page bill to stall it. 

‘I’m going to make the Senate clerk read the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion bill. All several hundred pages of it,’ Johnson tweeted.

The process will ‘probably take about 10 hours,’ he told Wisconsin radio station WISN. 

Many Republicans have complained about the rapid pace the legislation is being moved through Congress. The House passed it last week without a single Republican vote. The situation could be the same in the Senate. 

‘There is so much in this bill that needs to be discussed,’ said Republican Senator Mike Braun of Indiana.

National Guard members talk with a US Capitol Police officer on Capitol Hill

National Guard members talk with a US Capitol Police officer on Capitol Hill

National Guard members talk with a US Capitol Police officer on Capitol Hill

The Capitol is more secure than it was on January 6th with anti-climbing fencing topped with razor wire surrounding the complex

The Capitol is more secure than it was on January 6th with anti-climbing fencing topped with razor wire surrounding the complex

The Capitol is more secure than it was on January 6th with anti-climbing fencing topped with razor wire surrounding the complex

Lawmakers, staff and media must go through checkpoints guarded by armed National Guard soldiers before they can get into the Capitol

Lawmakers, staff and media must go through checkpoints guarded by armed National Guard soldiers before they can get into the Capitol

Lawmakers, staff and media must go through checkpoints guarded by armed National Guard soldiers before they can get into the Capitol

embers of the National Guard wear protective face masks on duty outside of the U.S. Capitol

embers of the National Guard wear protective face masks on duty outside of the U.S. Capitol

embers of the National Guard wear protective face masks on duty outside of the U.S. Capitol

The Capitol is being guarded by almost 5,000 troops

The Capitol is being guarded by almost 5,000 troops

The Capitol is being guarded by almost 5,000 troops

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer walks through the Ohio Clock Corridor in the Capitol on Thursday in route to his office

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer walks through the Ohio Clock Corridor in the Capitol on Thursday in route to his office

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer walks through the Ohio Clock Corridor in the Capitol on Thursday in route to his office 

But there is also a deadline facing lawmakers. On March 14, expanded unemployment benefits given to many of those suffering the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic runs out.  

At some point on Thursday or Friday, the Senate will move into a vote-a-rama – a series of back-to-back votes on multiple amendments that can go late into the night to the next morning. 

Depending on how long Republicans can stall and how many amendments are offered the legislation, a final vote on the COVID relief package may not come until the weekend.

In the 50-50 chamber, Senate Democrats cannot afford to lose one vote and leaders have worked to shore up support for the legislation. 

President Biden already agreed to one compromise: cutting off stimulus checks to Americans who make more than $80,000 a year.  

White House Press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that the president backed giving the full $1,400 to Americans who make $75,000 and giving no money to those who make more than $80,000. Same with couples who make more than $160,000. 

‘He is comfortable with where the negotiations stand,’ Psaki said. 

Biden made the move to sooth Senate moderates, who worried about the cost of the legislation. But the change infuriated progressives – although they are expected to still support the bill.

The relief package contains several provisions that have made it popular in opinion polls, even while attracting virtually no Republican support in Congress. It includes an extension of unemployment benefits and a supplemental unemployment benefit of $400 per week, an expanded child tax credit of up to $3,600, and more than $300 billion for state and local governments. 

Sen. Ron Johnson said he will force Senate clerks to read the coronavirus bill aloud, and that it could delay the bill by up to 10 hours

Sen. Ron Johnson said he will force Senate clerks to read the coronavirus bill aloud, and that it could delay the bill by up to 10 hours

Sen. Ron Johnson said he will force Senate clerks to read the coronavirus bill aloud, and that it could delay the bill by up to 10 hours

The Senate’s Thursday session will take place under the heavy eye of security.

While U.S. Capitol Police did not name a specific group in its statement on Wednesday there is chatter the militia group the Three Percenters is involved – the group were among the rioters accused of breaching the Capitol on January 6 as part of a Make America Great Again mob.

‘We have obtained intelligence that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group on Thursday, March 4,’ USCP said in it statement, which came the same day that officials testified on Capitol Hill about security surrounding the complex.

‘We have already made significant security upgrades to include establishing a physical structure and increasing manpower to ensure the protection of Congress, the public and our police officers,’ they noted.

‘Our Department is working with our local, state, and federal partners to stop any threats to the Capitol. We are taking the intelligence seriously. Due to the sensitive nature of this information we cannot provide additional details at this time.’ 

No protest permits have been issued for Thursday, according to a D.C. Police Department spokesperson, but acting House Sergeant at Arms Timothy Blodgett sent a memo to lawmakers and staff asking them to ‘remain vigilant and to report suspicious activity’ headed into Thursday. 

The Capitol is being guarded by almost 5,000 troops and U.S. Capitol Police requested 4,900 National Guard troops remain in the nation’s capital until at least March 12.

For some soldiers, this means it is almost two months since they were first drafted in to the city following the MAGA riot on January 6th.

Source: Daily Mail |World News

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