President Biden is putting into play his national COVID-19 strategy to ramp up vaccinations and testing.
The Senate on Friday confirmed Lloyd Austin as the nation’s first Black defense secretary, the second nominee of President Joe Biden to be confirmed by the chamber.
Austin is a retired four-star Army general who will be the first Black secretary of defense. He was the first Black general to command an Army division in combat and also the first to oversee an entire theater of operations as the commanding general of U.S. forces in Iraq.
Austin’s confirmation process wasn’t without bumps. Controversy flared over a law barring recently retired military officers from serving as the defense secretary, but top Democrats lined up behind Austin’s nomination, citing the need for Biden to have his national security team in place after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. The law requires that troops be retired for seven years before taking the post.
The House passed a waiver from the law for Austin on Thursday afternoon, and the Senate followed suit shortly after.
– Nicholas Wu and Christal Hayes
The impeachment article charging former President Donald Trump with inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol will be sent to the Senate on Monday, triggering the impeachment trial process, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced on the Senate floor Friday morning.
He said he had been in touch with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the timing of the article. The House impeached Trump for “incitement of insurrection” on Jan. 13.
Schumer said it was still unclear how long the trial will last and when it will begin in earnest, issues he is still discussing with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“But make no mistake, a trial will be held in the United States Senate, and there will be a vote whether to convict the president,” Schumer said.
– Nicholas Wu and Christal Hayes
Senate leaders continued Friday to negotiate the timing of the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, who has hired a lead defense lawyer to represent him.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., proposed Thursday to start the trial in February, after preliminary statements are filed by House prosecutors and Trump’s defense team. He argued the slight delay would offer time for Trump’s legal team to familiarize themselves with the case.
“At this time of strong political passions, Senate Republicans believe it is absolutely imperative that we do not allow a half-baked process to short-circuit the due process that former President Trump deserves or damage the Senate or the presidency,” McConnell said in a statement.
Trump hired prominent South Carolina attorney Butch Bowers, who worked for the Justice Department during President George W. Bush’s administration, to represent him. A friend of Bowers, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told his colleagues about the hiring during a conference call Thursday.
“Solid guy,” Graham said, adding that Bowers would act as the lead attorney on a Trump team that is still being put together.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office said it received McConnell’s proposal, which aims to start the trial in the Senate chamber Feb. 13.
“We will review it and discuss it with him,” said Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she would send the article of impeachment to the Senate “soon.” Schumer, D-N.Y., said there will be a trial, but the timing is uncertain.
The House impeached Trump Jan. 13, charging him with inciting the insurrection at the Capitol a week earlier. The Senate will decide whether to convict him.
But the case raises numerous legal challenges, including whether a former president can be tried after he leaves office. The Senate must also decide whether to call witnesses or hear other evidence.
– Bart Jansen
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s second day in office was focused heavily on COVID-19.
Biden stressed science and unity in his first briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, giving Americans the “brutal truth” about the challenges the nation faces before signing a series of executive orders aimed at combating the pandemic.
On his third day as president, Biden will launch another front in his battle against COVID-19 by taking steps to provide economic relief to Americans still reeling from the effects of the deadly pandemic.
Biden is set to sign two executive orders that will give low-income families easier access to federal nutrition and food assistance programs and start the process for requiring federal contractors to pay their workers a minimum wage of $15 per hour and give them emergency paid leave.
Also on Thursday, a few of of Biden’s Cabinet picks cleared a few hurdles.
The House removed a roadblock to the confirmation of Lloyd Austin, Biden’s nominee to be defense secretary, granting Austin a waiver from a law barring recently retired military officers from serving as the defense secretary.
Additionally, Pete Buttigieg, Biden’s nominee to the lead the Department of Transportation, met a favorable reception and drew praise from both sides of the aisle Thursday during his confirmation hearing.
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