Democrat President-elect Joe Biden is worried that Congressional Democrats’ focus on impeaching and convicting President Donald Trump may have an impact on their ability to pass key elements of his agenda during the crucial first 100 days of his administration.
Speaking to reporters late Monday, Biden said that he’d already spoken to Democrat leaders in the House and Senate, asking them to consider how important it is for a new president to “hit the ground running” when discussing their impeachment plans.
“I had a discussion today with some of the folks in the House and Senate,” Biden said. “And the question is whether or not, for example, if the House moves forward – which they obviously are – with the impeachment and sends it over to the Senate, whether or not we can bifurcate this.”
The House is set to open debate on whether to impeach the president on a single count of “inciting an insurrection” on Tuesday, and it may not be the open-and-shut case Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and others hope, given that both “inciting” and “insurrection” are terms Republicans will likely want to debate. And as Trump has less than two weeks left in office, any effort to convict him in the Senate will likely happen after Biden is inaugurated on January 20th.
That means the Senate could be pre-occupied with impeaching and convicting the president well into Biden’s first term, leaving him a limited amount of time to pass priority legislation, particularly the improved coronavirus relief plan his transition team has been pressing. It would also indefinitely delay Senate approval of Biden’s Cabinet nominees, as the Senate is required to meet six days a week during an impeachment trial, and attend only to the trial itself.
“Can we go half-day on dealing with the impeachment and half-day getting my people nominated and confirmed in the Senate?” Biden asked reporters.
Fox News reports that Senate Minority Leader (and soon-to-be Majority Leader) Chuck Schumer (D-NY) believes he can get around the required focus on impeachment.
“We’re going to have to do several things at once, but we’ve got to move the agenda as well,” he said. “Yes, we’ve got to do both.”
Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), who was instrumental in helping Biden achieve success in the Democratic primary, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that, given Trump would not have to be removed from office, it’s possible the House could delay sending articles of impeachment to the Senate until after Biden’s first 100 days as president, allowing the Senate to approve Biden’s nominees first, before holding their impeachment trial.
“We’ll take the vote that we should take in the House, and (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi) will make the determination as to when is the best time to get that vote and get the managers appointed and move that legislation over to the Senate,” he said. “It just so happens that if it didn’t go over there for 100 days, it could — let’s give President-elect Biden the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running, and maybe we’ll send the articles sometime after that.”
Democrats would, of course, prefer that Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s Cabinet invoke the 25th Amendment and unilaterally remove the president from power rather than rely on Congress to impeach the president. Pence seems unlikely, however, to follow their direction. Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy (D-CA) suggested that legislators looking for an immediate result consider censure rather than impeachment, but Democrats appear to have rejected that suggestion out of hand.