Adam S. Olsen- Washington, D.C.
February 16, 2021

The conclusion of former President Donald J. Trump’s impeachment trial was briefly cast into doubt on Saturday after a last-minute request for witness testimony threatened to extend a proceeding on whether the president had incited the January 6th Capitol riot which was “the most grievous constitutional crime ever committed by a president.”   But the House impeachment managers who had raised the request quickly dropped the issue, paving the way for closing arguments and a vote that delivered Mr. Trump’s second acquittal of high crimes and misdemeanors.  In a 57-to-43 vote, the Senate handed down an acquittal for Mr. Trump for the second time in 13 months, but it was the most bipartisan support for conviction of any of the four impeachments in American history.  In the end, only seven Republicans broke ranks, but that was one more than expected, with Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina crossing party lines.  Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania also voted to convict Mr. Trump.  With the conclusion of the impeachment trial, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) announced on Monday that the US Congress will move to establish an outside, independent commission to review the “facts and causes” related to the deadly January insurrection at the Capitol by supporters of former President Trump in the waning days of his presidency.  Speaker Pelosi said in a letter to members of Congress that the commission would be modeled on a similar one convened after the September 11th terrorist attack on Washington and New York.  Establishing such a body, were it to resemble the commission that reviewed the 9/11 crisis, is expected to require legislation.

The House and Senate are both not in session this week.  However, the Senate convened at 10 a.m. for a pro forma session and the House meets at 12:30 p.m. in a pro forma session and will be in a committee work week.

House Democrats were busy last week advancing a wide range of coronavirus relief provisions, all part of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package.  In the House, the Budget Committee is expected to combine the various pieces of the COVID relief bill into a reconciliation vehicle, after nine House panels held marathon budget hearings last week.  Speaker Pelosi plans to hold a floor vote on the relief package next week, ahead of a March 14th deadline, when key unemployment provisions expire for millions of Americans.  This week, the Rules Committee will determine the procedures governing debate over the package before it heads to the floor.  Democrats are doing a series of issue-specific caucus calls ahead of finalizing the relief bill, which they say is an effort to “maximize the dissemination of information” during the reconciliation process.  Today at 1 p.m. the Democratic Caucus will hold a call with the Budget and Rules Committees.  Followed by a 2 p.m. call with the Ways and Means, Oversight and Veterans Affairs committees.  Tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. the Energy and Commerce, Education and Labor, and then Agriculture as well as Science, Space, and Technology will brief the Caucus followed by a 5 p.m. call with Transportation and Infrastructure, Small Business, Financial Services, and Foreign Affairs.

The relief package could face hurdles in the Senate, where Democrats can’t afford to lose a single member of their party with the 50-50 split in the chamber. Already, two Democrats — Senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — have voiced opposition to one element of the plan, raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.  Manchin previously stated that he was opposed to hiking the minimum wage to $15 an hour but would be in favor of a more moderate increase, such as $11.

Of note, the Senate Appropriations Committee unveiled its roster Friday, revealing the list of subcommittee assignments for those that will be crafting COVID-related government funding for the next two years.   Nine of the 12 subcommittees have new chairs, and three have new ranking members.

President Joe Biden will visit Milwaukee tonight, making his first official trip as president as he pushes for quick approval of his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.  Biden will take part in a CNN town hall at Milwaukee’s Pabst Theater that will air at 9 p.m. ET.

Adam S. Olsen, Washington, D.C.