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Schumer: Coronavirus relief is first order of business for Democratic Senate

Schumer: Coronavirus relief is first order of business for Democratic Senate
© Greg Nash

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHumanist Report host criticizes 'conservative Democrats:' They 'hold more power' than progressives Bush-, Obama-era officials urge Senate to swiftly confirm Biden's DHS pick OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court upholds ruling invalidating Dakota Access, but doesn't shut down pipeline | Schumer calls for Biden to declare climate emergency | Biden seeks to bolster consultation with Indian Country MORE (D-N.Y.) is vowing that coronavirus relief will be the first bill taken up by the Senate once Democrats take over control of the chamber on Jan. 20. 

Schumer sent a letter outlining his plans to Senate Democrats on Tuesday, a copy of which was obtained by The Hill. The letter does not mention one of the biggest hurdles to acting quickly on an agenda: a potential looming trial if House Democrats vote, as expected, to impeach President Trump on Wednesday for a second time.   

Instead, Schumer pledged a "bold agenda" that will start with passing additional coronavirus relief after Senate Republicans repeatedly blocked legislation to increase the amount of recently passed stimulus checks to $2,000. The Senate GOP also rejected Democrats' call for more state and local aid as part of the recent $2.3 trillion package that funded the government and provided roughly $900 billion in coronavirus relief. 

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"As soon as the new Senate is organized and Vice-President Harris has been sworn in, we will immediately set to work to deliver on that goal. As our first order of legislative business, please prepare to address additional COVID emergency relief legislation," Schumer said in the letter. 

Schumer had previously pledged that a bill for $2,000 stimulus checks would be one of his first priorities after Democrats won the two Georgia Senate seats in a runoff earlier this month giving them a 50-50 majority because incoming Vice President Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisSen. Patrick Leahy returns home after being hospitalized What the shift in Senate control means for marijuana policy reform Vice President Harris receives second dose of COVID-19 vaccine MORE can break a tie. 

Schumer, in his letter, outlined several priorities including increasing the amount of the $600 checks, as well as more money for vaccine distribution, schools and state and local governments. 

"As you know from our work at the end of the last Congress, the job of COVID emergency relief is far from complete. Democrats wanted to do much more in the last bill and promised to do more, if given the opportunity, to increase direct payments to a total of $2,000 -- we will get that done," Schumer wrote in the letter.

Democrats are taking back the Senate majority for the first time since 2014, with Democrats holding both the White House, House and the Senate for the first time since 2010. 

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That's giving congressional leaders a massive to-do list, amid pent up frustrations after four years under the Trump administration and pressure from progressives to go big. 

Senate Democrats aren't expected to be able to nix the 60-vote legislative filibuster, given their slim majority, but they are likely to use reconciliation — a budget loophole that allows them to avoid a filibuster — to pass things like health care and tax related legislation. 

Schumer, in his letter, vowed to take up legislation related to climate change, infrastructure, health care, immigration and criminal justice reform. 

"When and where we can, we will strive to make this important work bipartisan. The Senate works best when we are working together with our Republican colleagues. However, if our Republican colleagues decide not to partner with us in our efforts to address these issues, we will not let that stop progress," Schumer wrote.