WASHINGTON – President-elect Joe Biden already faces the daunting task of steering a newly announced $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill through a closely divided Congress as the pandemic and its economic fallout grow.
Now Biden will have to do it with President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial beginning potentially as soon as his first day in office.
The confluence of events amounts to one of the most politically and logistically complicated openings to a new administration in modern history, requiring Biden to try to move the country into a post-Trump era even as senators debate Trump's most divisive acts.
“It’s going to be incredibly challenging,” said former Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat. “There's only so much bandwidth in the Congress.”
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who will have a significant role to play in ushering Biden’s agenda through the Senate as chair of the Budget Committee, underscored how much is on Democrats' plate during Biden's first few months in office.
“We don’t have the time to spend an enormous amount of time on impeachment, and then we’re going to go to Biden’s nominees and then we have to deal with legislation,” the independent senator said. “We’re going to have to move simultaneously in a whole bunch of areas.”
Biden has so far stayed largely out of public deliberations over Trump's impeachment for inciting a riot. After the House vote, Biden was forceful in denouncing the violent attack on the Capitol that precipitated the impeachment charge, but he also said he’d work as president to ensure Americans “stand together as a nation” — and called on the Senate to “find a way to deal with their constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation.”
His hands-off approach to the matter is in keeping with his stance throughout the campaign and into his transition, even as Trump’s ever-growing controversies have overwhelmed the news cycle.