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Road Ahead: Budget markups, impeachment trial define week

Senate trial begins Tuesday as House preps coronavirus relief

House Clerk Cheryl Johnson and Acting House Sergeant at Arms Tim Blodgett lead the House managers procession to deliver the article of impeachment against former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Jan. 25.
House Clerk Cheryl Johnson and Acting House Sergeant at Arms Tim Blodgett lead the House managers procession to deliver the article of impeachment against former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Jan. 25. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate is embarking on its second impeachment trial of President Donald Trump this week, focused on his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

It’s a familiar process for most senators, who acquitted Trump of the charges in his first trial just over a year ago. It’s also a familiar subject, as the lawmakers themselves hid in the Capitol complex just steps from the chaos and violence.

The House impeachment managers will argue that Trump bears responsibility for inciting the mob, using “incendiary and violent language” that turned his Jan. 6 rally into “a powder keg waiting to blow.”

Most Republicans have focused on the process, not on Trump’s culpability, arguing that the trial is unconstitutional because Trump is no longer president. They appear ready to acquit him.

If the Senate acquits Trump, it risks signaling to future presidents that “there will be no consequences, no accountability, indeed no Congressional response at all if they violate their Oath to ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution’ in their final weeks,” the managers wrote.

House committees write and mark up coronavirus relief legislation

The dozen House committees involved in writing pieces of the coronavirus aid package will begin marking up their portions this week.

Democrats are still operating on a tight timeline to finish the relief legislation through the budget reconciliation process before enhanced unemployment benefits and airline aid expires in March.

“Hopefully, in a two-week period of time, we’ll send something over to the Senate and this will be done long before the due date of the expiration of so many initiatives,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday.

On Sunday, the Financial Services Committee, which holds its markup Wednesday, became the first panel to release its legislative recommendations, including $15 billion for the aviation industry to keep workers on payroll through Sept. 30.

The House Ways and Means Committee has the largest piece of the package at $941 billion, and jurisdiction over President Joe Biden’s proposed $1,400 tax rebates. The president and top Democrats have talked about narrowing the scope of who is eligible for the payments.

The committee is setting aside Wednesday through Friday for a markup, though it may not take all three days. Ranking member Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said Republicans will only offer “substantive” amendments and not try to drag it out.

Other panels with key pieces of the bill include the Education and Labor Committee, which will oversee the minimum wage and school funding parts of the bill. The committee will also share jurisdiction with Ways and Means on funding to shore up cash-strapped union pension plans. And the House Oversight and Reform Committee has jurisdiction over state and local aid.

Senate votes on McDonough; Tanden set for contentious confirmation hearings

Neera Tanden, Biden’s pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget, is getting double the attention this week, with two confirmation hearings lined up.

Also on the schedule, the Senate will vote Monday on Denis McDonough’s nomination to be secretary of Veterans Affairs. The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee advanced the nomination after McDonough argued in his confirmation hearing that he understood government from “both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue” from his work at the White House.

Tanden will testify before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday (9:15 a.m., 342 Dirksen) and the Senate Budget Committee on Wednesday (10 a.m., 608 Dirksen).

Tanden has been president of the left-leaning Center for American Progress since 2011. Her brash style has earned her enmity at times from both the left and the right, and Republicans are ready for a fight over her nomination.

Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has also had brushes with Tanden in the past. During his presidential campaign in 2019, he wrote a letter accusing Tanden of “maligning my staff and supporters and belittling progressive ideas.”

Tanden has deep connections with the Clintons, having worked as an associate director for domestic policy under President Bill Clinton and later serving as policy director for Hillary Clinton’s first presidential campaign. She also served as a health care adviser in the Obama administration.

In other nominations work this week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is voting Thursday (10 a.m., 430 Dirksen) on Biden’s picks to lead the Education and Labor departments, Miguel Cardona and Martin Walsh, respectively.

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