Democrat Objection Causes Longest Vote in History: 11 Hours and 50 Minutes

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y., listens during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) held open a vote on a minimum wage amendment Friday to buy time to save the $1.9 trillion coronavirus package after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) raised an unforeseen objection.

The objection caused the longest vote in history, 11 hours and 50 minutes. The vote was finally closed at 10:53 p.m.

With the help of President Biden, it took Schumer nearly nine hours to negotiate a deal with Manchin. Under the deal, laid-off workers will receive $300-a-week federal unemployment benefits on top of their state benefits until September 6, 2021. And the first $10,200 in unemployment benefits received in 2020 will be tax-free for households with less than $150,000 in annual income.

After the deal was struck, the Senate had to wait for the legislative text to be drafted and for a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office.

The vote broke the record set on June 28, 2019, when senators kept a vote on an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill open for ten hours and eight minutes to accommodate Democrat presidential candidates who participated in a debate in Miami.

The delay caused Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to point out, “If we were doing this [delay], you’d be all over us. We couldn’t get five feet down the hall.”

“Why did you put the Senate on hold for five-and-a-half hours because you won’t let two Republicans work with a Democrat to do something they want to do,” he said of the Democrats’ effort to freeze votes to persuade Manchin not to support a proposed Republican amendment that renegotiated the amount of weekly unemployment benefits in the package from $400 to $300 and to extend those benefits to July 18 instead of August 29, as passed by the House.

“They’ve been working their members over since 11 o’clock,” said Senate Republican Whip John Thune (R-SD). “They had an alternative amendment they’ve trying to whip and they’ve had problems trying to get votes for that.”

According to the Hill, “All the while Schumer, Biden, Wyden and Carper were working feverishly behind the scenes to hammer out a deal with Manchin.”

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