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Politics This week: Senate starts Trump trial as Democrats draft coronavirus bill

10:51  13 february  2021
10:51  13 february  2021 Source:   thehill.com

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The Senate will start a historic second impeachment trial of former President Trump this week , nearly five weeks after the Capitol attack. Both chambers passed a budget resolution on Friday that greenlights passing coronavirus legislation through reconciliation — a tool that will let them bypass the 60-vote legislative filibuster, and the need for GOP support, in the Senate . Though the House is out of session this week , the committees are expected to spend the week drafting legislation in line with President Biden’s .9 trillion proposal.

Earlier this week , Trump lawyer Brice Castor told the Senate that while his client denounced the violence at the Capitol by a pro- Trump mob as “repugnant in every sense of the word,” he also said Trump ’s words are protected speech that should not be blamed for the actions of others, namely the rioters. Though the occasion is meant to be celebrated with family and friends, the coronavirus pandemic means that the festival will look different this year for the 1.5 billion people who observe it.

The Senate will start a historic second impeachment trial of former President Trump this week, nearly five weeks after the Capitol attack.

a man wearing a suit and tie: This week: Senate starts Trump trial as Democrats draft coronavirus bill © Greg Nash This week: Senate starts Trump trial as Democrats draft coronavirus bill

The trial is set to start on Tuesday, with senators suggesting that it could wrap up in roughly a week.

The trial will put Trump, and divisions within the GOP about his future role in the party, back under the spotlight, eating up political oxygen even as the Biden administration is still trying to get off the ground.

As of Sunday night, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has offered no clues about the organization of the trial or its time frame as he's continued to negotiate with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky).

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The Senate will vote on a coronavirus stimulus bill as early as this week , Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday. In a statement, the Kentucky Republican said the chamber aims to take up what he called a "targeted proposal, focused on some of the very most urgent healthcare, education, and economic issues." The package would allow states to restart enhanced unemployment insurance at 0 per week through late December, authorize a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans for hard-hit small businesses and create broad liability protections for companies, NBC News

Trump signaled in a statement Sunday night that he signed the coronavirus relief bill only after securing a commitment for the Senate to consider legislation to increase stimulus checks from 0 to ,000. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, did not reference that commitment in his Calling the President's signing of the relief bill "welcome news" for Americans whose benefits had lapsed, Pelosi said in a statement Sunday that Trump should "immediately call" on Republicans "to end their obstruction and to join him and Democrats in support of our stand-alone legislation to increase

Trump's first trial lasted 21 days. His second is expected to be considerably shorter, as both sides coalesce behind not trying to call witnesses and potentially moving to a final vote within a matter of days.

"I just can't imagine that it's going to go beyond a week," Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) told The Hill. "I don't think there's a lot of enthusiasm for this thing from anybody."

The first phase of the 2020 trial lasted eight days: Three days per side for House impeachment managers and the president's lawyers to present their case and two days for the Senate to ask questions. If the second trial follows a similar timeline that would guarantee that it lasts at least eight days.

But senators have also said they don't believe they should be bound by the 2020 trial given the differences in the cases.

Senate eyes speedy Trump impeachment trial

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Trump himself had been absent from the talks since before the election. Lawmakers went home for the holidays after passing the bill . The president's Tuesday night tweet, which included a video of him discussing what he considers the bill 's many flaws, including funding headed overseas, came less than 24 hours after the Senate passed the measure. The size of direct payments was a key sticking point in the final bill , which came after months of failed talks and false starts , all while the economy struggled to recover and hundreds of thousands of Americans died from the coronavirus . GOP Sen.

Senate Republicans last week rolled out a roughly trillion proposal after working closely with the administration in a bid to slow the potentially catastrophic impact of the coronavirus on the economy. As on Monday, more than 35,000 have tested positive for the illness in the United States, a number The pressure to forge a deal and pass the bill took on added urgency as several members of Congress have tested positive for the coronavirus . But negotiations that carried through the weekend had hit a sour note by Sunday afternoon. Democrats had already been frustrated that Senate Republicans

The 2020 trial involved two articles of impeachment and a complex case that required familiarizing both the public and the Senate with a large cast of characters involved with Trump's policy decisions toward Ukraine.

This year's trial, in contrast, has one article of impeachment that involves events that played out in public view in real time. Trump spoke near the White House on Jan. 6 urging his supporters to march to the Capitol, where then-Vice President Mike Pence and lawmakers were counting the Electoral College vote.

The attack on the Capitol was televised and footage from inside the building flooded social media during the riot.

The House impeachment managers invited Trump to testify under oath. Trump's lawyers, however, rejected the request and the idea got bipartisan pushback from senators who warned it would result in chaos.

Sources told The New York Times that the House impeachment managers are preparing to skip trying to call witnesses and finish the trial in as little as a week.

Impeachment trial kicks off this week as Democrats seek to tie Trump to Capitol riots

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Democrats and Republicans restarted in-person talks on the next coronavirus relief bill Monday as the outbreak continues to spread and enhanced unemployment benefits have expired. Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Steven Mnuchin and Mark Meadows held what Pelosi called "productive" discussions, but Democrats said several issues are still outstanding. Aid for jobless Americans, liability protections for businesses, and relief for state and local governments remain major sticking points in the talks.

Democrats sought to detail how Mr Trump sparked the attack on the Capitol and presented evidence that took senators step-by-step through the events of the day of the riot. On Thursday, they embarked on the final point of their prosecution: the harm they say Mr Trump caused to property, people and Earlier on Thursday, Mr Schoen accused the Democrats of making "movies" and presenting the case as an "entertainment package" with the video and audio footage they showed the Senate . A number of Republican senators have said they will vote for Mr Trump as they do not believe the constitution

Schumer's office is expected to accommodate a request from one of Trump's lawyers that the trial not be conducted on the Jewish Sabbath. Lawyer David Schoen asked that the trial be paused if not finished by Friday at 5:24 pm and then reconvene on Sunday.

Trump's trial puts the Senate in the middle of murky political waters.

It's the first impeachment trial for a president already out of office and the first presidential impeachment trial not to be overseen by the chief justice. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the Senate president pro tem, will instead preside.

The trial is expected to hand Trump his second acquittal. Though Republicans fumed in the immediate aftermath of the Capitol attack, Democrats acknowledge they won't get 67 votes after 45 GOP senators backed an effort questioning the constitutionality of holding a trial after a president leaves office.

GOP Sens. Ben Sasse (Neb.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Mitt Romney (Utah) were the only Republicans who voted to table the effort by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). None have said how they will vote at the end of the trial.

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McConnell has also sidestepped saying how he will vote.

"I want to listen to the arguments. I think that's what we ought to do. That's what I said before it started," he told reporters last week. "That's still my view."

Coronavirus

Democrats are moving quickly to craft a $1.9 trillion coronavirus package as they prepare to hold a vote in the House later this month.

Both chambers passed a budget resolution on Friday that greenlights passing coronavirus legislation through reconciliation - a tool that will let them bypass the 60-vote legislative filibuster, and the need for GOP support, in the Senate.

Though the House is out of session this week, the committees are expected to spend the week drafting legislation in line with President Biden's $1.9 trillion proposal.

"Next week, we will be writing the legislation to create a path to final passage for the Biden American Rescue Plan, so that we can finish our work before the end of February. Thank you to our Chairs for their knowledge and values-based leadership and to our Members for their courage," Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wrote in a "Dear Colleague" letter on Friday.

Democrats will need to work out several internal divisions about the details of the bill as they prepare to move forward.

Though Democrats say they hope to have GOP support for the final bill, no Republican has signaled support for passing a $1.9 trillion package less than two months after Congress approved an additional $900 billion in coronavirus relief.

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If Democrats try to pass a bill on their own they face a slim margin in the House and no room for error in the Senate, where they would need all of the 50-member Democratic caucus.

Democrats are debating tightening eligibility for the next round of stimulus checks.

Biden has proposed a $1,400 check, but has stayed away from laying down markers on income eligibility.

Under the previous rounds of payments individuals who made up to $75,000 and couples who made up to $150,000 received a full check, with the amount phasing down after that.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told CNN that Americans who make $60,000 should get a check.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), meanwhile, is proposing that individuals who make up to $50,000 and couples who make up to $100,000 should get a full check with the amount phasing down until it hits an income threshold of $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for couples.

But progressives warned over the weekend against changing the income threshold for receiving a full payment.

"I strongly oppose lowering income eligibility for direct payments from $75,000 to $50,000 for individuals and $150,000 to $100,000 for couples. In these difficult times, ALL working class people deserve the full $1,400. Last I heard, someone making $55,000 a year is not 'rich,' " tweeted Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Nominations

The Senate will vote on Denis McDonough's nomination to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The vote, set for Monday at 5:30 p.m., will likely make McDonough the final Cabinet pick that Biden gets confirmed until after the impeachment trial is over. McDonough previously served as then-President Obama's chief of staff.

Democrats had wanted to deal with nominations and legislation in the morning and the trial in the afternoon, but Republicans have signaled they will oppose that.

What to expect from Trump’s second Senate impeachment trial .
The action starts Tuesday. It might not last long.Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have reached an agreement to govern the structure and timing of the trial, Schumer announced Monday afternoon.

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