Democrats are still moving forward with a fresh COVID-19 package even as the impeachment trial for former President Donald Trump starts Tuesday, the Senate’s top Democrat told reporters on Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the trial would not disrupt President Joe Biden’s early agenda, including his $1.9 trillion spending package.
“We can do both at once,” Schumer said during a press conference in Washington.
“To the pundits that said we cannot do both at once, you are wrong. We can and we are. Bottom line, the Senate is moving all steam ahead on a bold plan to get this country out of the crisis and speed vaccination distribution and provide a lifeline for small businesses and help schools reopen and so much more.”
Both chambers on Friday passed a budget measure that enables Democrats to pass a version of Biden’s plan even if no Republicans back it, though they can’t afford to lose a single Democrat senator. This method of using a budget tool is only possible because Democrats hold majorities in the House and the Senate.
Republicans have cried foul but can do little to stop the other party, short of convincing at least one Democrat to vote against the final package. They’ve referred to the impeachment trial as a waste of time since a conviction is highly unlikely and Trump left office on Jan. 20.
Biden’s proposal includes sending $350 billion to state and local governments, a fresh round of stimulus checks, and raising the federal minimum wage to $15.
Biden signaled last week that the minimum wage hike might not be allowed to be part of the budget process, but Schumer told reporters Tuesday he’s working with the Senate parliamentarian to get the hike into the budget reconciliation package.
Trump’s impeachment trial started early Tuesday afternoon. According to the timeline agreed upon by Schumer and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the trial will last around a week, unless witnesses are called.
The House of Representatives this week was planning to start considering the COVID-19 relief package, even as some representatives served as de facto prosecutors in the trial. House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) said his committee on Wednesday would markup relief proposals including extending unemployment insurance and expanding the child tax credit.
At the same time, Senators are considering and confirming a number of Biden’s nominees.
“I have been asked about how we are going to do this, and I think about how many people are being asked to do all at once under impossible circumstances right now, moms, students, educators, not workers, you name it. They do not have the option to pick just one problem to solve. They have to get it all done, and so do we,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) told reporters. “Senate Democrats know that and we will get it done and we are proud to be doing this.”