Senate Minority Chairman Charles Schumer, D-NY (R), stands with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. (L) together as they attend electoral college electoral certification for President-elect Joe Biden during a joint congressional session at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, Jan. 6, 2021.
Kevin Dietsch | Pool | AFP | Getty Images
Preparing for the first equally divided Senate in 20 years and the only impeachment trial of an ex-president in US history, Senate Chairs Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell discussed the Chamber’s ground rules on Tuesday.
After a 30-minute briefing in McConnell’s office, Schumer told reporters, “We discussed a number of issues,” according to NBC News. They did not make an immediate announcement of how they would proceed in the complicated early days of the Biden administration.
Schumer’s Democrats are expected to take control of a 50:50 Senate on Wednesday. Kamala Harris becomes vice president and then holds a groundbreaking vote once the chamber swears in three new Democratic senators. Harris’ successor Alex Padilla of California and elected Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff of Georgia will be sworn in on Wednesday.
Schumer, DN.Y., and McConnell, R-Ky., Have to decide how to deal with unprecedented weeks for the Senate. The chamber must establish rules for impeachment proceedings against outgoing President Donald Trump that the Democrats intend to reconcile with the approval of the cabinet of President-elect Joe Biden and the passage of a law to ease the coronavirus.
Before the meeting on Tuesday, Schumer told reporters: “We have to do three things quickly: impeachment, nominations, Covid.” Speaking in the Senate, he described them as “key issues” that the Chamber must cross off its list in the coming weeks.
McConnell also spoke during Tuesday’s Senate session, saying Trump provoked the deadly Capitol riot.
He did not publicly address the logistics of the process and confirmatory votes, but rather in a letter to the Senate GOP caucus received from NBC News on Monday.
The Senate must agree on how a 50:50 split should be structured. Democrats will chair committees and Schumer will decide which bills see a floor vote. The party can approve candidates for the executive branch by simple majority and needs 60 votes to pass most laws.
In the last equally split Senate in 2001, each party had an equal number of seats on committees. If a committee got bogged down in an action, the majority leader had the power to get it to a full vote in the Senate.
The heads of state and government have indicated that the 2001 rules will determine the establishment of the Senate for the next two years. In a letter to Republican Senators Monday night, McConnell said he hoped to follow the 2001 Senate power structure, adding that he wanted to ensure the Senate maintains the “status quo” of the legislative filibuster. Some Democrats have pushed for the practice to be abolished and laws passed by simple majority.
Failure to reach an agreement on the filibuster can “delay” an agreement on the power structure and the duties of the committee, McConnell wrote.
The Senate cannot begin Trump’s trial until the House receives the impeachment article accusing the president of instigating a January 6 riot in the Capitol. House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Did not say when she will send the trial measure to the Senate.
Trump’s first impeachment trial last year took about three weeks. If the 67 senators needed voted to condemn the president, it would be too late to remove him from the White House. However, the chamber could hold a separate vote to exclude Trump from taking office again.
Schumer and McConnell were expected to discuss how to structure the process. Biden hopes the Senate can devote part of its day to impeachment and another part to affirming its cabinet.
In his letter, McConnell suggested that the formal impeachment process for Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday should not begin until Thursday, NBC reported.
The Senate committees began holding hearings for the presidential elections candidates on Tuesday. These include Treasury Secretary-designate Janet Yellen, Foreign Secretary nominee Antony Blinken, and Defense Secretary-designate Lloyd Austin. The panels could vote to send their nominations to the Senate in the coming days.
Schumer noted that “it will take the cooperation of our Republican colleagues to quickly approve the national security officials in Biden’s administration.” Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., Said Tuesday he would block the speedy examination of the candidate for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and delay confirmation from at least one key official.
Still, McConnell told Republicans the Senate could vote on the promotion of Biden candidates as early as Wednesday, NBC reported.
In addition to the process and confirmations, the Senate is likely to consider pandemic aid in the coming weeks as well. Biden, Schumer and Pelosi have stated that another rescue package will be their top legislative priority.
The president-elect released a $ 1.9 trillion bailout last week that he hopes will lead a bill that Democrats try to get Congress through. Biden may struggle to win Republican support for more federal spending after lawmakers approved a $ 900 billion aid package last month.
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