Democrats torn on impeachment trial timing

Democrats torn on impeachment trial timing
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Senate Democrats are torn on the timing of an impeachment trial for President TrumpDonald TrumpPoll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Biden flexes presidential muscle on campaign trail with Virginia's McAuliffe Has Trump beaten the system? MORE, worried it could delay President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden authorizes up to 0M for Afghan refugees Poll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Biden flexes presidential muscle on campaign trail with Virginia's McAuliffe MORE’s agenda for a week or longer.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerMcConnell pushes vaccines, but GOP muddles his message Biden administration stokes frustration over Canada Schumer blasts McCarthy for picking people who 'supported the big lie' for Jan. 6 panel MORE (N.Y.) has proposed that the Senate could work on a dual track by processing Biden’s Cabinet picks in the morning while holding a speedy impeachment trial for Trump in the afternoon, but Republicans don’t seem interested in the idea and can easily block it.

This puts Democrats in the tricky spot of deciding whether to prioritize a second impeachment trial for Trump, which wouldn’t begin until after he leaves office. This prospect of holding a trial after Trump becomes a private citizen is already drawing objections from Republicans who are questioning whether doing so is even constitutional.

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Several Democrats argue that Biden’s agenda should take first priority while others wonder if an impeachment trial, which could further poison the well of Senate collegiality, is even worth it at a time when they need Republican support to move Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief proposal.

“My clear preference is to create room for nominations and legislation. I’ll defer to leadership but I don’t know that we have to start the trial right after the inauguration,” said Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOvernight Defense: US launches another airstrike in Somalia | Amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to NDAA | No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia US launches second Somalia strike in week On The Money: Senate braces for nasty debt ceiling fight | Democrats pushing for changes to bipartisan deal | Housing prices hit new high in June MORE (D-Conn.).

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinBiden signs bill to bolster crime victims fund Stripping opportunity from DC's children Progressive groups ask for town hall with Feinstein to talk filibuster MORE (D-Calif.) called another impeachment trial of Trump a “moot question” because he’s leaving office on Wednesday.

“I think it’s a moot question. This president is leaving office so it won’t have any practical application. But whatever happens is fine with me,” she said.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinWhy Biden's Interior Department isn't shutting down oil and gas Overnight Energy: Senate panel advances controversial public lands nominee | Nevada Democrat introduces bill requiring feds to develop fire management plan | NJ requiring public water systems to replace lead pipes in 10 years Transit funding, broadband holding up infrastructure deal MORE (D-W.Va.), a key centrist who represents a state easily won by Trump in last year’s election, said earlier this month that an impeachment trial after Trump leaves office “doesn’t make any common sense whatsoever.”

Manchin on Tuesday said, “I was concerned about having the impeachment at the time we needed to put our government back together and build confidence back in our government.”

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Manchin said that Biden “needs to put that stability back and build confidence back,” noting the number of acting secretaries currently holding key executive branch positions.

Schumer on Tuesday, however, argued that a trial is necessary to bar Trump from running for the White House again in 2024, even though it’s uncertain that Trump, who is highly unpopular, would do it.  

Gallup measured Trump’s final job approval rating in office at 34 percent, the worst of his presidency. The poll was conducted from Jan. 4 to Jan. 15.

Schumer argued on the Senate floor that the upper chamber “has a solemn responsibility to try and hold Donald Trump accountable for the most serious charge ever levied against a president: the incitement of an insurrection against the United States of America.”

Schumer indicated that Democratic leaders have already decided to move forward with the impeachment trial, although he didn’t comment on its timing.

“There will be an impeachment trial in the United States Senate. There will be a vote on convicting the president for high crimes and misdemeanors. And if the president is convicted, there will be a vote on barring him from running again,” he said.

He expressed hope that Republicans would agree to move Biden’s nominees quickly.

“With cooperation, we can confirm key national security nominees at State, the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, Treasury and the intelligence community,” he said.

“The health and economic challenges our nation faces — the need to get vaccines out quickly — also require having key health officials and key economic nominees confirmed and on the job as soon as possible,” he added.

But Republicans are already shooting down the idea of moving Biden’s nominees while holding an impeachment trial at the same time.

“That's [Speaker] Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiYellen to Congress: Raise the debt ceiling or risk 'irreparable harm' Freedom Caucus presses McCarthy to force vote to oust Pelosi The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Tokyo Olympics kick off with 2020-style opening ceremony MORE’s [D-Calif.] choice because once she sends the articles of impeachment over it displaces all of their business,” Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSchumer feels pressure from all sides on spending strategy Data reveal big opportunity to finish the vaccine job GOP senators invite Yellen to brief them on debt ceiling expiration, inflation MORE (R-Texas) told reporters Tuesday.

“So if she wants to delay the confirmation of President Biden's nominees to Cabinet positions and prevent President Biden from asking for and receiving additional COVID-19 relief that would be one way to do it,” he added. “So they have a big decision to make.”

Asked about the prospect of moving Biden’s Cabinet picks and an impeachment trial on a dual track, Cornyn said: “That’s not going to be possible.”

Complicating the picture for Democrats is the lack of a power-sharing agreement for the Senate once three newly elected Democrats are sworn in — Sens.-elect Jon OssoffJon OssoffObamaCare 2.0 is a big funding deal Senate Democrats call for Medicaid-like plan to cover non-expansion states Stacey Abrams PAC tops 0 million raised MORE (Ga.), Raphael WarnockRaphael WarnockObamaCare 2.0 is a big funding deal Kaseya ransomware attack highlights cyber vulnerabilities of small businesses Lawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection MORE (Ga.) and Alex PadillaAlex PadillaSchumer, Tim Scott lead as Senate fundraising pace heats up Manchin signals support for immigration in budget deal Democrats hear calls to nix recess MORE (Calif.). Padilla is filling the seat vacated by Vice President-elect Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisJD Vance takes aim at culture wars, childless politicians Poll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Ron Johnson: 'I may not be the best candidate' for 2022 midterms MORE.

Without a power-sharing agreement, Schumer will not be able to set the committee ratios and appoint new Democratic members to the committees. That’s important because the Senate cannot vote on Biden’s Cabinet choices until they are discharged out of committee.

McConnell in a memo to colleagues said that he wants Schumer to agree to keep the legislative filibuster, which requires most controversial bills to muster 60 votes to advance, as part of a power-sharing agreement. That demand could delay action on Biden’s nominees and agenda.

Holding an impeachment trial while the power-sharing agreement is in limbo could delay it even longer as a trial would inflame partisan tensions.

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstBiden signs bill to bolster crime victims fund GOP seeks to make Biden synonymous with inflation Overnight Defense: Pentagon details military construction projects getting .2B restored from wall funds | Biden chooses former commander to lead Navy | Bill seeks to boost visa program for Afghans who helped US MORE (R-Iowa), a member of McConnell’s leadership team, on Tuesday accused Democrats of trying to divide her party by holding a trial for Trump after he leaves office.

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She doesn’t think it’s constitutional to hold an impeachment trial of a former office holder.

“I’ve read arguments on both sides but he’s not our president after tomorrow so the only reason I can see is that Democrats want to further divide the nation and [I’m] asking President-elect Joe Biden, ‘Please, let’s move forward,’ ” Ernst said.

Some Democrats have expressed hope for a speedy trial.

“We could conduct a trial in a very, relatively, short time,” Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandEquilibrium/ Sustainability — Presented by NextEra Energy — Clean power repurposes dirty power Senators hail 'historic changes' as competing proposals to tackle military sexual assault advance Overnight Defense: Military justice overhaul included in defense bill | Pentagon watchdog to review security of 'nuclear football' | Pentagon carries out first air strike in Somalia under Biden MORE (D-N.Y.) said last week.

“This article of impeachment is nothing like the previous articles of impeachment, which were highly complex, relied on multiple witnesses, multiple documents,” she said.

But Republicans are pouring water on the idea that the trial can be wrapped up in a couple days.

“The Senate has held three presidential impeachment trials. They have lasted 83 days, 37 days, and 21 days, respectively,” McConnell said last week.