By CAROLINE KELLY and JEFF ZELENY
President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday urged the Senate to conduct the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump while simultaneously working on other critical issues, indicating a desire to settle the proceedings against Trump that are likely to remain unresolved when Biden takes office.
While he said in a statement Wednesday that the House’s vote “to impeach and hold the president accountable” was “a bipartisan vote cast by members who followed the Constitution and their conscience,” Biden wants to hit the ground running on a broad spectrum of economic and public health initiatives when he takes office next week. He said the Senate needs to be able to follow through on Trump’s impeachment trial while working on his agenda.
“This nation also remains in the grip of a deadly virus and a reeling economy,” Biden continued. “I hope that the Senate leadership will find a way to deal with their Constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation.”
The House voted 232 to 197 on Wednesday to impeach Trump, with 10 GOP lawmakers joining all Democrats to impeach Trump for “incitement of insurrection” exactly one week after rioters stormed the US Capitol as the House certified Biden’s election victory. Marking the first time a president has been impeached twice, the process now advances to the Senate, which will conduct a trial.
Biden has made clear he’s not particularly enthusiastic for Trump’s impeachment, remaining silent for several hours on the historic action. Aides had told CNN that the president-elect was planning to release a statement Wednesday night on the president’s impeachment, but the timing certainly underscores that the Biden team had other priorities on Wednesday.
Yet the reality is that impeachment will now be one more thing Biden inherits from the Trump presidency.
He is still awaiting word on whether the Senate will be able to pursue impeachment, alongside Cabinet confirmation hearings and Covid-19 legislation he plans to outline in greater detail Thursday evening. Aides say Biden and his team are working behind the scenes with Senate Democrats – and House impeachment managers – to keep the impeachment trial as swift as possible, although it remains an open question how successful that might be.
At least four confirmation hearings for Biden’s Cabinet nominees are already scheduled for the week of January 20, for Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary nominee Lloyd Austin, Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen and Secretary of Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas. Senators could be called on to draft legislation having to do with the pandemic or economic relief, as Biden wants to increase relief checks to $2,000.