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Democratic senator: COVID-19 relief is priority over impeachment trial

Democratic senator: COVID-19 relief is priority over impeachment trial
© Greg Nash

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyGun violence prevention groups optimistic background check legislation can pass this Congress Democrats reintroduce gun sale background check legislation Amazon manager sues company over racial discrimination, harassment allegations MORE (D-Conn.) on Friday said his top priority is to immediately move a COVID-19 relief package with significant funding for hospitals, health care providers and vaccine distribution and then consider an article of impeachment against President TrumpDonald TrumpSouth Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Ex-Trump aide Pierson won't run for Dallas-area House seat House Oversight panel reissues subpoena for Trump's accounting firm MORE.

“My priority is getting this package on the floor of the Senate and confirming the president’s team,” Murphy said of President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenIntercept bureau chief: minimum wage was not 'high priority' for Biden in COVID-19 relief South Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Obama alum Seth Harris to serve as Biden labor adviser: report MORE’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal and his Cabinet picks.

“I’m eager to have a conversation about the utility of pursuing impeachment after the president has left. My priority is going to be moving this package, working with Republicans to get their support for it and getting people like Dr. Murthy and Attorney General Becerra in place,” he said, referring to Vivek MurthyVivek MurthyMurthy vows to focus on mental health effects of pandemic if confirmed as surgeon general The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Senate ref axes minimum wage, House votes today on relief bill Watch live: Biden surgeon general pick testifies at confirmation hearing MORE, Biden’s pick to serve as U.S. surgeon general, and Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraTanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief Overnight Health Care: Biden says US will have enough vaccine for all adults by end of May | Biden calls on all states to vaccinate teachers by the end of March | Texas, Mississippi lift mask mandates Becerra tells Warren he will do 'thorough review' of executive actions on drug prices MORE, his choice for U.S. attorney general.

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Murphy said Democratic leaders haven’t yet informed members of the Senate Democratic caucus what the timing of an impeachment trial would be and indicated there’s debate over holding a time-consuming trial once Trump leaves office.

“No answers on how the schedule is going to work but my clear message is that our priority needs to be this package or a version of it that can pass the Senate,” he said of Biden’s COVID-19 proposal.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden coronavirus relief bill tests narrow Democratic majority Some Republicans say proxy voting gives advantage to Democrats Gun violence prevention groups optimistic background check legislation can pass this Congress MORE (D-Calif.) on Friday declined to comment on when the House will send the article of impeachment passed this week to the Senate.

“You’ll be the first to know when we announce that we’re going over there,” she said.

Under the Senate impeachment rules, once the upper chamber receives an article of impeachment from the House, it must proceed to a trial and sit in trial daily — except for Sundays — until a verdict is reached.

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Some Senate Democrats are floating the idea of working on legislation and executive business before the chamber begins the trial each day at noon.

The Senate is in recess until Tuesday and outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief Boehner book jacket teases slams against Cruz, Trump Gun violence prevention groups optimistic background check legislation can pass this Congress MORE (R-Ky.) has declined to reconvene the chamber sooner. That means the earliest the Senate could receive the articles of impeachment would be Jan. 19 and the soonest a Senate trial could begin would be at 1 p.m. on Jan. 20, at which point Trump will be out of office.

“This is a matter of first impression whether or not you can impeach a president after his term is over and how you would schedule that at a moment when there is clearly other priorities,” Murphy said Friday.