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Democrats say impeachment trial won't impede Covid relief work

"Even though the impeachment trial is an important and august responsibility, we are doing both," Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer speaks to the press as preparations for former President Donald Trump's trial are made, on Capitol Hill Feb. 9, 2021.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks to the media Tuesday as preparations for former President Donald Trump's trial are made on Capitol Hill.Nicholas Kamm / AFP via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Top Senate Democrats said Tuesday that they won't let the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump impede their legislative work and that they can tackle their agenda simultaneously.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., flanked by Democratic committee chairs, said at a news conference that Democrats had a message for those who said "the impeachment trial would throw a wrench into President Biden's early agenda."

"We are here today to say we are not letting that happen. We can do both at once," Schumer said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., delivered the same message Tuesday, telling House Democrats in a letter that the caucus can continue its work on Covid-19 assistance as the Senate conducts the trial.

"Under the leadership of our Chairs, we are demonstrating that we can do our work without abandoning our principles and our responsibility to honor our oath of office and in holding the House to a high standard of integrity," said Pelosi, who noted that nine Democratic members will be prosecuting the case against Trump in the Senate as managers.

Speaking just a few hours before the trial was set to begin, Schumer said the Senate is "moving full steam ahead on a bold plan" to rescue the country from the pandemic, which he said would speed vaccination distribution, help schools reopen and save people's jobs.

"We have to do everything we can to end this crisis, and even though the impeachment trial is an important and august responsibility, we are doing both," he said.

Schumer said Democrats "will not dither, dilute or delay" by waiting around for Republicans to negotiate a final package.

Asked about the possibility that the trial could include witness testimony, which would extend the proceedings, Schumer said lawmakers would still "continue to get our work done."

He touted the Senate's work in quickly confirming Biden's Cabinet nominees, such as Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough and a deputy defense secretary Monday night. It's unclear whether the Senate will hold floor votes on other nominees during the trial period.

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House and Senate Democrats have moved at lightning speed over the last week to start to craft and finalize the aid package.

Senate Financial Services Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., reiterated that Democrats aim to pass a relief measure by March 14, when expanded unemployment benefits are set to expire.

"This is a supremely important moment for our economy and for millions of vulnerable families," Wyden said. "Without our economic package, it would be five years before unemployment is back in the ballpark of where it was a year ago. That's five more years of unnecessary financial pain for millions of Americans."

The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday also announced dates for Biden's nominee to be attorney general, Merrick Garland, will take place on Feb. 22 and 23 with a vote the following Monday on whether to move the nomination to the full Senate.