Democratic senator: COVID relief is priority over impeachment trial

Sen. (D-Conn.) on Friday said his top priority is to immediately move a COVID-19 relief package with significant funding for hospitals, health care providers and vaccine distribution and then consider an article of impeachment against .

“My priority is getting this package on the floor of the Senate and confirming the president’s team,” Murphy said of President-elect ’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal and his Cabinet picks.

“I’m eager to have a conversation about the utility of pursuing impeachment after the president has left. My priority is going to be moving this package, working with Republicans to get their support for it and getting people like Dr. Murthy and Attorney General Becerra in place,” he said, referring to referring to , Biden’s pick to serve as U.S. surgeon general, and , his choice for U.S. attorney general.

Murphy said Democratic leaders haven’t yet informed members of the Senate Democratic caucus what the timing of an impeachment trial would be and indicated there’s debate over holding a time-consuming trial once Trump leaves office.

“No answers on how the schedule is going to work but my clear message is that our priority needs to be this package or a version of it that can pass the Senate,” he said of Biden’s COVID-19 proposal.

Speaker (D-Calif.) on Friday declined to comment on when the House will send the article of impeachment passed this week to the Senate.

“You’ll be the first to know when we announce that we’re going over there,” she said.

Under the Senate impeachment rules, once the upper chamber receives an article of impeachment from the House, it must proceed to a trial and sit in trial daily — except for Sundays — until a verdict is reached.

Some Senate Democrats are floating the idea of working on legislation and executive business before the chamber begins the trial each day at noon.

The Senate is in recess until Tuesday and outgoing Senate Majority Leader (R-Ky.) has declined to reconvene the chamber sooner. That means the earliest the Senate could receive the articles of impeachment would be Jan. 19 and the soonest a Senate trial could begin would be at 1 p.m. on Jan. 20, at which point Trump will be out of office.

“This is a matter of first impression whether or not you can impeach a president after his term is over and how you would schedule that at a moment when there is clearly other priorities,” Murphy said Friday. 

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