Trump impeachment looms over Biden's first 100 days agenda

Washington (AFP) –


President-elect Joe Biden is expected to unveil plans Thursday for fighting Covid and restoring the economy, but the ambitious first 100 days agenda is already overshadowed by the looming Senate trial of his soon-to-be predecessor Donald Trump.

On the day after Trump was impeached in the House of Representatives -- becoming the first US president in history subjected to a second impeachment -- Biden hopes to seize the narrative and get Americans looking forward again.

In a primetime speech, he is expected to address a twin crisis exceeding even the challenge that faced him as vice president to Barack Obama when they assumed office in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to hit new peaks, the vaccination program is stumbling, and there are fears that the economic recovery from the cratering of 2020 could backslide.

Biden, who will be sworn in on January 20, says his plan is to tackle all of this at the same time, putting one of the darkest periods in American history into the rearview mirror.

One prong will be a third massive Covid relief package since the pandemic began a year ago.

This would include more direct stimulus payments and could also feature new taxes on the wealthy and an increase in the minimum wage.

Biden is also promising to get vaccinations off the ground, with an eye-catching slogan of 100 million shots to be administered in the first 100 days.

It's a tall order.

Biden takes office with one advantage he wasn't expecting even a few weeks ago: full control of Congress.

Shock victories by Democrats in Georgia's two Senate run-off races gave Democrats slim majorities in both chambers. This will also help Biden getting confirmations of his cabinet picks.

The Senate finance committee is set to begin looking at Janet Yellen's nomination for Treasury secretary on January 19.

- Elephant in the room -

But the new president will also have to contend with the almost evenly split Senate holding an impeachment trial.

Trump was impeached on Wednesday for inciting insurrection, when he egged on a huge crowd of supporters to march against Congress on January 6. The mob rampaged through the Capitol building, leaving five people dead.

In the Democrats' dream scenario, the Senate would have convened in emergency session to conduct a lightening trial before January 20, forcing Trump to step down.

But the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, scotched that idea, saying there wasn't time and the rush would be unfair to the president.

As of January 20, McConnell will lose his leadership, ceding to Democrat Chuck Schumer, who is vowing to press ahead.

However, McConnell's statement that he is open-minded on Trump's guilt raises the possibility that Trump could still end up being convicted.

If this happened, a second simple majority vote would be enough to bar the real estate tycoon from trying to come back as president in 2024.

Whatever the outcome, Trump is now set to remain at the forefront of US politics, rather than fade into the background, as former presidents traditionally do.

In his first remarks since the impeachment, Biden issued a carefully worded plea late Wednesday for the Senate to help him manage the juggling act.

"I hope that the Senate leadership will find a way to deal with their Constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation," Biden said.