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What the ending of the impeachment trial means for stimulus checks

Virus Outbreak
Posted at 4:15 PM, Feb 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-14 11:10:27-05

After five days of deliberations, the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump has concluded, ending in an acquittal of the former president.

There was much concern going into the trial on whether the trial would disrupt a speedy consideration of President Joe Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill, which in turn would send $1,400 checks to most Americans.

Since Tuesday, the impeachment trial has dominated the Senate calendar, as senators had to weigh testimony from House impeachment managers and Trump’s defense on whether he should be convicted for inciting a riot at the US Capitol on Jan. 6.

Then on Saturday, House impeachment managers surprised senators by calling on witnesses. Initially, senators obliged, voting 55-45 to call on witnesses. But calling on witnesses may have added weeks to the trial, prolonging a result that likely would have still ended up in an acquittal.

Following a chaotic recess in the US Senate on Saturday, House managers dropped their call for witnesses, setting up Saturday’s acquittal vote.

But for those thinking that work on the stimulus bill will promptly begin now that impeachment has concluded, think again.

Both the House and Senate are on scheduled breaks this week.

In the past week, House committees voted on sections of the stimulus proposal. Because the Senate is using the budget reconciliation process in an effort to skirt the legislative filibuster, the stimulus bill will be voted on piecemeal. On Wednesday, the House Ways and Means Committee voted on a section of the stimulus proposal that will send $1,400 checks to Americans making up to $75,000 per year. The House committee also approved $400 unemployment supplements through the end of September.

However, there are still questions on whether those making up to $75,000 a year will earn a full stimulus check. A group of Democrats sent Biden a letter this week calling on him to keep the amount at $75,000, but others in the caucus have wanted a smaller, more targeted threshold.

On Sunday, during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen suggested a figure in between $50,000 and $75,000.

“(Biden) wouldn't want to see a household making over $300,000 receive these payments,” Yellen said. “But if you think about an elementary school teacher or a policeman making $60,000 a year, and faced with children who are out of school and people who may have had to withdraw from the labor force in order to take care of them and many extra burdens, I would -- he thinks, and I would certainly agree, that it's appropriate for people there to get support.”

Stimulus proposals cannot move out of committee until the full House meets again on the week of Feb. 22.

The Senate also resumes legislative action that week as well.

The break-in legislative action in the Senate has given time for Biden to garner bipartisan support for his bill. On Friday, he invited a group of mayors and governors from both parties in an attempt to sell the “America Relief Plan.”

"The president was extremely thoughtful, listened to every single one of the elected officials, both governors, and mayors from both parties, listened to our comments and concerns,” said Republican Mayor Francis Suarez of Miami. “We had a reflective conversation back and forth, and I think he's gonna use our input to make the bill better and to hopefully get it passed for the benefit of the American people."

Some Republicans, however, said they are feeling left out of the process.

“Even though we are still pushing out $900 billion in relief that congress passed less than two months ago, even though a group of Senate Republicans met with President Biden to discuss bipartisan avenues for hundreds of billions of dollars more, Washington Democrats have decided they want to go it alone,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Monday.

In addition to the economic stimulus, the Senate is also tasked with confirming members of Biden's cabinet. As of Saturday, just six of Biden's 15 appointees have been confirmed. Several important posts, including the attorney general and the secretary of Health and Human Services, remain unfilled.