President-elect Joe Biden weighed in again on the subject of impeachment late Wednesday, this time pushing the Senate, which will flip to Democrats next week, to press ahead with legislative business and push a possible trial for President Donald Trump, who will have left office, to the backburner.
“I hope that the Senate leadership will find a way to deal with their Constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation,” Biden said.
Biden reportedly remains concerned that Congress is so focused on impeaching and punishing Trump that he will lose the precious time he needs to pass his agenda. Presidents typically have just 100 days to introduce major pieces of legislation and just 18 months to press a full agenda, and if the Senate is fully focused on holding Trump’s impeachment trial — a commitment required by the Constitution — it will overshadow any attempt by the Biden Administration to effect change.
“From confirmations to key posts such as secretaries for Homeland Security, State, Defense, Treasury, and director of national intelligence, to getting our vaccine program on track, and to getting our economy going again,” Biden said, earlier this week. “Too many of our fellow Americans have suffered for too long over the past year to delay this urgent work.”
Biden is most interested in passing another coronavirus relief bill to supplement the COVID-19 aid package passed by Congress in mid-December. On Thursday, he announced some details of his plan, including $1400 supplemental checks for individual taxpayers — checks that would bring the total supplemental individual benefit to $2000 per person.
The president-elect wants that measure passed within the first few days of his administration and, on Tuesday, pleaded with lawmakers to consider a half-day schedule for an impeachment trial.
“Can we go half-day on dealing with the impeachment and half-day getting my people nominated and confirmed in the Senate, as well as moving on a package? That’s my hope and expectation,” Biden said.
It’s increasingly clear that even if a Senate impeachment trial began on Friday — with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) declaring an emergency session — it will not conclude before Biden is sworn in on January 20th, which McConnell noted in a statement made on Tuesday.
“Even if the Senate process were to begin this week and move promptly, no final verdict would be reached until after President Trump had left office,” McConnell said. “This is not a decision I am making; it is a fact.”
The difficulty Biden and Democrats face, though, is it is not clear a Senate impeachment trial can take place after an impeached president has left office — and it is also not clear whether the Senate can divide their time while handling impeachment proceedings. Guidelines for impeachment trials suggest that all Senators to be present for the trial and for the trial to consume the Senate’s business hours for up to six days per week until it concludes.
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