Incoming WH Officials Hope Biden’s Agenda Won’t Fall Behind As Senate Trial Approaches

WILMINGTON, DELAWARE - JANUARY 15: U.S. President-elect Joe Biden speaks during day two of laying out his plan on combating the coronavirus at the Queen theater January 15, 2021 in Wilmington, Delaware. President-el... WILMINGTON, DELAWARE - JANUARY 15: U.S. President-elect Joe Biden speaks during day two of laying out his plan on combating the coronavirus at the Queen theater January 15, 2021 in Wilmington, Delaware. President-elect Biden is announcing his plan to administer COVID-19 vaccines to Americans. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) MORE LESS
January 17, 2021 5:44 p.m.

Although President-elect Joe Biden has declined to weigh in on the timing of the Senate impeachment trial in the days leading up to his inauguration this week, his incoming White House officials signaled on Sunday that they hope the trial won’t get in the way of Biden’s priorities at the start of his presidency.

Although the House voted to impeach Trump for the second time last week for his “incitement of insurrection,” the Senate won’t return from recess until a day before Biden’s inauguration. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has been tight-lipped on the timing of when the House’s impeachment article will be sent to the Senate, which would kick start the beginning of the trial in the chamber.

The Constitution requires the Senate to begin an impeachment trial at 1 p.m. ET the day after the House transmits the article of impeachment.

Incoming White House officials on Sunday wouldn’t offer up their opinions on when the Senate impeachment trial should begin, but stressed the importance of addressing Biden’s key priorities early on in his presidency is part of their constitutional duties as well.

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When asked about how worried he is that the Senate impeachment trial could derail Biden’s key priorities such as confirming Cabinet members or passing a coronavirus relief package, incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain emphasized that there is “urgent action the country needs.”

“As the president-elect said, it’s important for the Senate to do its constitutional duty, but also to do its constitutional duty to move forward on these appointments, on the urgent action the country needs,” Klain said.

 Klain pointed to the impeachment trial last year when the Senate held conducted “other business” in the morning.

“During the last time President Trump was tried, the Senate was able to hold confirmation hearings for nominees during the morning, was able to conduct other business,” Klain said. “I hope that the Senate leaders, on a bipartisan basis, find a way to move forward on all of their responsibilities.”

Klain emphasized that the Senate impeachment trial shouldn’t stand in the way of Biden’s priorities as the country nears 400,000 deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic thus far.

“This impeachment trial is one of them,” Klain said. “But getting people into the government and getting action on coronavirus is another one of those responsibilities.”

Incoming White House communications director Kate Bedingfield similarly punted to congressional leadership regarding the timing of the Senate impeachment trial, while also expressing hope that the trial won’t stand in the way of Biden’s agenda, during an interview on ABC News on Sunday. 

“Well, obviously, ultimately, the mechanics and the logistics of — the pace of the trial and how it should play out is up to congressional leadership,” Bedingfield said. “You know, I think the president-elect has spoken publicly about his view here which is that he hopes that the Congress will be able to do its constitutional duty, to discharge its constitutional duty while simultaneously being able to focus on the business of the American people.”

Bedingfield said that Biden hopes the Senate will “immediately” take up the $1.9 billion coronavirus relief package he outlined last week so that the incoming administration can have the funds to set up a comprehensive vaccine distribution program. Like Klain, Bedingfield pointed to the Senate addressing other matters amid last year’s impeachment trial.

“So his great hope is that they’re going to be able to do that,” Bedingfield said. “And I think if you look, you know, there’s precedent for that. If you look at the previous impeachment trial, the Senate was able to move forward on floor business while also conducting the trial.”

Bedingfield reiterated that Biden hopes that congressional leadership can focus on addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and the economy “while simultaneously doing their constitutional duty.”

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