With seats in the U.S. Senate evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, Vice President Kamala Harris represents the tie-breaking vote in her role as president of the Senate.
It was in that capacity that she showed up on Capitol Hill this week to cast a vote in favor of advancing a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, as Fox News reported.
“Obscene amount of money”
Senators had been deadlocked over whether to begin debate on the proposal, which passed in the House of Representatives last week.
In the upper chamber, the massive 628-page spending bill was met with fierce criticism from the GOP side of the aisle, including one senator’s demand that Senate clerks read the bill out loud, word for word, in its entirety.
“All I’m trying to do is make this a more deliberative process, obviously shine the light on this abusive and obscene amount of money,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said in defense of his move.
Conservatives have complained that the proposal’s Democratic proponents are attempting to use the ongoing public health crisis as an excuse to pass a bill loaded with progressive pork spending.
One such provision allowed Planned Parenthood to participate in the Paycheck Protection Program, which was designed to assist small businesses through the economic toll of the pandemic.
“A shameless attempt”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) made it clear in a statement on Friday that he wanted to see that item stripped from the bill.
“Democrats knew this was never about COVID relief or helping small businesses,” he said, according to Fox. “It was a shameless attempt to fund their radical agenda on the taxpayers’ backs, and I was successful in preventing that from happening by stopping these funds from going to abortion mills.”
He was not alone in speaking out against the provision.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) told Fox News: “You know, ultimately, it aims to get money into the hands of Planned Parenthood. What does Planned Parenthood have to do with COVID?”
Despite the fierce Republican opposition, plenty of Democrats were clearly supportive of the bill and Harris’ role in kickstarting the Senate debate. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) insisted that the measure would pass “no matter how long it takes” and declared that the “American people deserve nothing less.”