Good morning! It’s Monday, February 8, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 638 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,366 days away. Thanks for waking up to politics!
What to watch this week in politics
The Senate trial. Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial will kick off in the Senate on Tuesday. With both parties eager to move on from the Trump era — and expecting him to be easily acquitted — the proceedings are likely to go even quicker than his first trial, which lasted 15 days.
According to the New York Times, the House impeachment managers plan “to mount a fast-paced, cinematic case aimed at rekindling the outrage” from the Capitol attack on January 6. They are set to rely heavily on video of the riot and the former president’s remarks earlier that day; according to the Times, they are planning for the trial to last as little as a week.
Trump’s lawyers are expected to focus on the constitutionality of the trial, arguing that a president cannot be convicted by the Senate once they are out of office. “We’re trying to win a case on a bunch of procedural objections,” Bruce Castor, one of the former president’s attorneys, told Reuters. The contention that the trial itself is unconstitutional has already been endorsed by 45 Republican senators, although Charles Cooper — one of the most prominent figures in the conservative legal establishment — penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed this weekend that argued otherwise.
One thing that both the prosecution and defense are expected to agree on: Neither are likely to push for witnesses to be called during the trial. That’s a big change from Trump’s first trial, when Democrats pushed hard (and failed) for the Senate to call witnesses. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) told Politico that this time around is different because the alleged offense took place in public: “Imagine if the Ukraine call was streamed on the Internet,” he said.
Schatz also acknowledged that most observers views view the trial’s outcome as a forgone conclusion: “It’s not clear to me that there is any evidence that will change anyone’s mind.”
Stimulus package. While the Senate ties up the loose ends of the Trump presidency, the House will be focused this week on the debut legislative priority of President Joe Biden: his proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill.
Democrats are expected to file the bill’s official text today, before an amalgam of committees begins marking it up. According to Punchbowl News, the House Education and Labor Committee will kick things off on Tuesday, with eight more committees slated to follow later in the week.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) is expected to introduce an addition to the package today: a plan that would provide $3,000 per child to tens of millions of American families, a benefit that could become a “defining feature” of the Biden administration’s agenda and “make a lasting imprnt on American welfare policy,” the Washington Post reported.
Although the child benefit is one provision that could amass bipartisan support — Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) introduced a similar proposal last week — Biden has largely moved on from courting GOP support for the stimulus package. The president met with a group of Republican moderates at the White House last week, but has already decided to ditch the bipartisan negotiations in favor of pushing the legislation through via reconciliation. The fast-track process allows Democrats to approve the bill with majority votes in both the House and Senate, removing the need for any cross-party backers.
At the White House. Meanwhile, on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Biden is slated to continue his efforts to studiously avoid discussing the impeachment trial — or his predecessor in general.
In a CBS News interview that aired on Sunday before the Super Bowl, Biden dodged the question when asked how he would vote if he were a juror in the Trump trial. “Look, I ran like hell to defeat him because I thought he was unfit to be president,” Biden said. “But I’m not in the Senate now. I’ll let the Senate make that decision.”
So the president will be counterprogramming instead, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki telling reporters on Friday that he will be “focused on engaging with bipartisan groups” to promote the “American Rescue Plan,” the formal name for his stimulus proposal.
Psaki added that Biden would also be speaking about “other key priorities, including current vaccine distribution and national security.” He is scheduled to virtually tour a vaccination center today, ahead of a visit Thursday to the National Institutes of Health. Biden will also stop by another federal agency, visiting the Pentagon on Wednesday to meet with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
CORONAVIRUS: New cases of COVID-19 are dropping steadily in the United States, with the nation recording fewer than 100,000 new infections on Sunday for the first time since November 2 and the least hospitalizations from the virus since November 19.
However, danger continues to lurk: according to a new study, a more contagious coronavirus variant first found in the United Kingdom is spreading rapidly across the U.S., doubling about every 10 days.
- Politico: “Biden’s vaccine ad campaign hits roadblock: Not enough doses”
INSIDE THE GOP: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) was censured by her state Republican Party on Saturday for her vote to impeach former President Trump last month. However, Cheney stood by her vote in a Sunday interview on Fox News: “We should not be embracing the former president,” she declared.
Those comments from the No. 3 House Republican are in stark contrast to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who recently met with Trump at Mar-a-Lago and has continued to praise him. According to Axios, McCarthy urged Cheney to apologize to the GOP conference for her impeachment vote; Cheney refused to do so.
- CNN: “McCarthy survives tumultuous week and emerges with a tight grip on House Republicans”
IN MEMORIAM: George Schultz, a longtime eminence in government, business, and academia, died on Saturday at age 100. Schultz was one of only two people in American history to hold four different Cabinet-level posts: he served as Labor Secretary, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Treasury Secretary under Richard Nixon and as Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan.
- A Washington Post op-ed by Schultz from December: “The 10 most important things I’ve learned about trust over my 100 years”
In Friday’s newsletter, I accidentally added an extra zero when referring to the amount of the direct checks President Joe Biden has proposed sending to Americans as part of his stimulus package. The correct amount is $1,400.
Due to a typo, I also misstated the party affiliation of Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin. He is a Democrat. My apologies for both errors and thanks to the readers who pointed them out.
President Joe Biden will depart Wilmington, Delaware, where he spent the weekend, at 8:25 a.m. and arrive back at the White House at 9:30 a.m. He will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10:15 a.m with Vice President Kamala Harris. At 2:30 p.m., Biden and Harris will participate in a virtual tour of the State Farm Stadium vaccination site in Glendale, Arizona.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold a press briefing at 12 p.m.
U.S. public health officials will hold a press briefing at 11 a.m. The briefers will include Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the president; Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Andy Slavitt, a senior advisor on the White House COVID-19 response team.
The Senate will convene at 3 p.m. Following Leader remarks, the chamber will consider the nomination of Denis McDonough to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The Senate is scheduled to hold a confirmation vote on McDonough at 5:30 p.m. A longtime Obama aide who served as the former president's second-term White House chief of staff, McDonough would be the second non-veteran to lead the VA.
The House will briefly convene at 2 p.m. for a pro forma session.
Former President Donald Trump has until 10 a.m. to file his pre-trial brief for the upcoming Senate impeachment trial. The House impeachment managers have until 12 p.m. to file their rebuttal to Trump’s response to the impeachment article.
The Supreme Court is not in session.