Democrats push for stimulus deal ahead of Trump impeachment trial

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Joe Biden, US President, faces a narrow window to garner bipartisan support for his $ 1.9 billion stimulus package, after Congressional Democrats said they wanted a deal before the impeachment trial against Donald Trump begins the week of February 8.

Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council at the White House, was scheduled to hold a meeting with 16 senators, including eight Republicans, on Sunday to revive discussions on Mr. Biden. relief package, which is the new president’s first legislative priority.

Although Mr Biden has vowed to make bipartisan unity a defining feature of his presidency, a number of Republicans have rejected elements of his relief plan, criticizing him for overspending and for including provisions such as ” an increase in the federal minimum wage.

Given this skepticism, Democrats want to quickly assess Republicans’ appetite for serious negotiations on the stimulus package – which includes direct payments to individuals, state aid and additional unemployment benefits – or try to do so. spend only with lawmakers from their own party. .

Dick Durbin, the Illinois senator and the second-highest-ranking Democrat in the upper house, said in an interview with NBC News on Sunday that the purpose of the call with Mr. Deese was to see “s ‘there was an area of ​​agreement’ on the bailout.

“I hope we can show from the start that bipartisanship is alive in the Senate,” said Durbin.

“The bailout that President Biden sent us is of the utmost importance. . . So hopefully we can really roll up our sleeves and make it happen during this time [before Mr Trump’s trial]. “

Democrats need at least ten Republican senators to approve the back-up plan if they are to pass it using current Senate practice, which requires a supermajority to move legislation forward. But failing that, Democrats could adopt a simple majority back-up plan using a parliamentary process called “budget reconciliation” which is reserved for bills involving taxes and spending. The Senate is evenly divided with 50 senators supporting each party, but Kamala Harris, the vice president, can cast decisive votes, ceding control to the Democrats.

Mike Rounds, a Republican senator from South Dakota, told NBC on Sunday that Democrats should drop their insistence on raising the federal minimum wage to $ 15 an hour from $ 7.25 to help strike a deal.

“I really don’t think we are that far away when it comes to leading Covid relief efforts, especially in the targeted areas,” he said. “The real challenge is whether Democrats are prepared to publish some of the articles that are not specifically aimed at Covid relief.”

The push for an early stimulus deal came on the eve of the expected Monday decision by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives to forward his impeachment article against Mr. Trump for instigating the Jan.6 attack on Capitol Hill. American.

Normally, that would trigger the start of the Senate trial against the former president the next day, but Republicans and Democrats have reached an agreement to delay the heart of the process until the week of February 8. For Republicans, this will give Mr. Trump more time. to prepare his defense, and for Democrats, it will help confirm more people appointed by Mr Biden’s cabinet and push through the relief package.

Speaking on Fox News on Sunday, Mitt Romney, the Republican Senator from Utah, showed he leaned toward conviction of Mr. Trump, saying “unforgivable conduct” was plausible given Mr. Trump and that it was important to have “responsibility, for truth and justice.”

But there is unlikely to be enough Republican support to secure this condemnation in the Upper House. Marco Rubio, the Republican Senator from Florida, told Fox News on Sunday that Mr. Trump bore “responsibility for part of what happened” on Capitol Hill, but he did not agree with the impeachment .

“I think the trial is stupid. I think it’s counterproductive. We already have a blazing fire in this country and it’s like taking a bunch of gasoline and pouring it on the fire, ”he said.

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