Schumer: Senate Can Run Impeachment Trial And Press Ahead On COVID-19 Relief
Updated at 1:07 p.m. ET
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., pledged that Senate Democrats are moving "full steam ahead" on passing coronavirus relief legislation as they convene for the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.
"To the pundits who said we can't do both at once, we say you are wrong. We can and we are," Schumer told reporters at a press conference Tuesday, just hours before the Senate trial was set to begin.
Schumer, who was joined by 10 committee chairs, declared that the Senate will be able to tackle the impeachment trial while simultaneously moving forward on a "bold plan to get this country out of the crisis," including prioritizing vaccine distribution, assisting small businesses, tending to the economy and reopening schools safely.
President Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion relief package that is the basis for Democrats' efforts. On Friday, the Senate and the House both narrowly approved a budget resolution that could allow Democrats to approve relief legislation on a party-line vote.
In a letter to House Democrats on Tuesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said House committees are "writing the American Rescue Plan into legislation" with the goal of the measure being signed by Biden before unemployment benefits expire in March.
Democrats are still debating various provisions. The House Ways and Means Committee on Monday introduced a plan detailing which Americans would be eligible for direct payments. And Schumer told reporters Tuesday that Democrats are working with the Senate parliamentarian so that a $15 federal minimum wage could potentially be included in the package.
The majority leader also briefly previewed the trial itself, saying there will be some new evidence presented by the House impeachment managers.
Schumer urged his Republican colleagues in the Senate to pay "very real attention to the evidence here because it's very, very serious."
"The Senate has a solemn responsibility to try and hold Donald Trump accountable for the most serious charges ever, ever levied against a president," he said.
Trump was charged by the House with one article of impeachment, arguing he incited an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, the day that lawmakers were assembled to carry out their constitutional duty to certify the electoral votes in the 2020 presidential election.
"When you have such a serious charge, sweeping it under the rug will not bring unity; it will keep the sore open, the wounds open," Schumer said. "You need truth and accountability."
The Senate convened at 1 p.m. ET Tuesday for the trial. There will be up to four hours equally divided between the impeachment managers and Trump's defense team to debate the constitutionality of the trial. Then the Senate will vote on whether it has the jurisdiction to try a former president. The threshold to pass is a simple majority of 51 votes.
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