This week: Senate stuck in limbo
© Greg Nash

The Senate is stuck in limbo heading into the second week of the Biden administration as leadership remains at a standoff over its power-sharing agreement. 

Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHillicon Valley: Biden signs order on chips | Hearing on media misinformation | Facebook's deal with Australia | CIA nominee on SolarWinds House Rules release new text of COVID-19 relief bill Budowsky: Cruz goes to Cancun, AOC goes to Texas MORE (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Murkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo MORE (R-Ky.) have yet to reach a deal on how to organize the Senate, which is evenly split 50-50. 

Without an agreement, Democrats are technically in the majority, because Vice President Harris can break a tie, but Republicans are still in control of many of the committees because they are still operating under the previous Congress’s set up. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The organizing resolution, normally passed with little fanfare, has emerged as an early flashpoint as Schumer and McConnell try to set the tone for at least the next two years. Democrats are back in the majority for the first time since 2014. 

The talks hit a speed bump after McConnell pushed for an agreement securing the future of the 60-vote legislative filibuster to be included in the deal. 

“I believe the time is ripe to address this issue head on before the passions of one particular issue or another arise," McConnell wrote in a letter to his caucus last week. 

Democrats don’t currently have the votes within the caucus to nix the filibuster, despite growing calls from outside groups, progressive activists and even growing support within the caucus. Because it would take 50 votes, the support of every member of the caucus would be needed. 

But Democrats are fuming over McConnell’s gambit, believing the GOP leader is still trying to control the chamber from the minority and would never agree to such a demand if the situation was reversed 

“Mitch McConnell will not dictate to the Senate what we should do and how we should proceed. McConnell is no longer the majority leader and in every senate in the past they have come to an agreement on an organizing resolution,” Schumer said during a press conference in New York. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Impeachment

The Senate will start inching toward a second impeachment trial of former President TrumpDonald TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills MORE this week. 

Under a pretrial schedule agreed to by Schumer and McConnell, the article of impeachment will be delivered to the Senate early Monday evening. The House voted nearly two weeks ago to impeach Trump for “willfully inciting violence against the Government of the United States.” 

On Tuesday, senators will be sworn in as jurors and a summons will be issued to Trump. 

The pretrial period is expected to last for roughly two weeks, during which time Schumer is hoping to confirm additional Biden nominees and work on coronavirus relief legislation. 

Lawmakers have offered few details on how long a trial could last or if they’ll try to call additional witnesses or documents. Trump’s first trial, in 2020, lasted 21 days, with senators expecting the second trial to be shorter. 

Schumer, speaking in New York on Sunday, predicted that the trial wouldn’t last too long. 

“And as I said, I believe it will be a fair trial but it will move relatively quickly and not take up too much time because we have so much else to do, but at the same time it will be fair,” he said. 

Coronavirus

Biden is facing GOP opposition to his $1.9 trillion coronavirus package that is threatening his ability to enact any new relief measures quickly. 

A bipartisan group of senators spoke over the weekend with White House officials, as the administration works to win over the hill. 

But GOP senators, including members of the bipartisan group, are skeptical of the overall size of the package after Congress passed an additional $900 billion in coronavirus relief late last year. 

Pieces of Biden’s proposal, such as more money for vaccine distribution, could garner bipartisan support but the package overall is a “non-starter,” according to Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntPassage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Microsoft, FireEye push for breach reporting rules after SolarWinds hack Biden's unity effort falters MORE (Mo.), the No. 4 Senate Republican. 

If Democrats aren’t willing to scale down their package, they’ll need to make a decision about how to pass it with only Democratic support. 

In the Senate that likely means using reconciliation, a budget tool that allows some legislation to bypass the 60-vote legislative filibuster. Though they aren’t yet willing to pull the trigger on that, they have acknowledged that it might be necessary. 

"The American people are hurting, and they want us to act," Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersKlain says Harris would not overrule parliamentarian on minimum wage increase Romney-Cotton, a Cancun cabbie and the minimum wage debate On The Money: Senate panels postpone Tanden meetings in negative sign | Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers MORE (I-Vt.), the incoming Budget Committee chairman, told CNN. “We have got to restore the faith of the American people in government that we can respond to their pain."

Nominations

After confirming two of Biden’s Cabinet picks during his first week, Biden is poised to get at least two more this week. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Treasury Secretary nominee Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenSEC to update climate-related risk disclosure requirements The economic trends that will create post-pandemic policy challenges Powell pushes back on GOP inflation fears MORE and Tony Blinken, Biden’s pick to lead the State Department, are both expected to be confirmed by the Senate this week after Democrats were unable to get them confirmed during the first few days of the new administration.

The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will vote on Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasSenate confirms Vilsack as Agriculture secretary Biden to detail 'roadmap' for partnership with Canada in meeting with Trudeau Hillicon Valley: Google lifting ban on political ads | DHS taking steps on cybersecurity | Controversy over TV 'misinformation rumor mills' MORE’s nomination to be Department of Homeland Security secretary Tuesday. 

Meanwhile, the Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday for Gina Marie Raimondo’s nomination to be secretary of Commerce. On Wednesday, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold its hearing for Jennifer GranholmJennifer GranholmOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Key vote for Haaland's confirmation | Update on oil and gas leasing | SEC update on climate-related risk disclosure requirements The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Finger-pointing on Capitol riot; GOP balks at Biden relief plan Haaland courts moderates during tense Senate confirmation hearing MORE’s nomination to be secretary of Energy and the Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing for Linda Thomas-GreenfieldLinda Thomas-GreenfieldThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - J&J A-OK, Tanden in Trouble The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Finger-pointing on Capitol riot; GOP balks at Biden relief plan Overnight Defense: Law enforcement officials blame Pentagon 'reluctance' to deploy National Guard in first hearing on Capitol attack | Watchdog report finds Pentagon didn't fully evaluate border deployment requests | Biden's UN ambassador confirmed MORE’s U.N. ambassador nomination. 

On Thursday, the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the nominations of Rep. Marcia FudgeMarcia FudgeSanders votes against Biden USDA nominee Vilsack Senate confirms Vilsack as Agriculture secretary Biden's infrastructure plan needs input from cities and regions MORE (D-Ohio) to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Cecilia RouseCecilia RouseSenate panel advances Biden's picks for Housing secretary, chief economist On The Money: Biden commits to ,400 checks, but open to eligibility limits | House approves budget resolution for COVID-19 package | McConnell seeks to inflict political pain on budget votes On The Money: Reddit traders cause Wall Street havoc | Powell: Inflation fears should not impede more coronavirus aid | NJ lawmakers press for SALT cap repeal in next relief package MORE to chair the Council of Economic Advisers.