- The House of Representatives impeached President Donald Trump on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
- While most Democrats voted in favor of both charges, 2020 presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) voted present.
- In a lengthy statement, Gabbard said that “could not in good conscience vote either yes or no” because of the partisan nature of the process, and added that her vote was “a vote for much-needed reconciliation.”
- The articles will now be sent to the Senate for trial. Speaker of the House Pelosi has said she will delay sending the articles until she can be assured that the Senate will conduct a fair trial.
House Votes to Impeach
The House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump Wednesday night, officially making him the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.
After a day’s worth of debate, the House held two separate votes on the two articles of impeachment levied against Trump.
The first article is for abuse of power and claims that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rival Joe Biden by withholding nearly $400 million in military aid, as well as a meeting at the White House.
The second article alleges that Trump obstructed Congress by refusing to cooperate with their impeachment inquiry.
The abuse of power article was passed with 230 yeas to 197 nays, with one member voting present. The obstruction of Congress article was passed along similar margins, with 229 yeas to 198 nays, and one present vote.
House members voted almost entirely along party lines. No Republicans voted in favor of either article, while nearly all of the Democrats voted in favor of both.
Two Democrats voted against the abuse of power article and three voted against the obstruction of Congress article.
However, one of the Democrats who voted against both articles was Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, who recently announced that he plans to switch his party affiliation to Republican.
Tulsi Gabbard Votes Present
Notably, the single Democrat who voted present for both articles of impeachment was 2020 presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI).
Gabbard explained her decision in a lengthy video posted on Twitter.
“After doing my due diligence in reviewing the 658-page impeachment report, I came to the conclusion that I could not in good conscience vote either yes or no,” she said. “I am standing in the center and have decided to vote Present.”
“I could not in good conscience vote against impeachment because I believe President Trump is guilty of wrongdoing,” she continued.
“I also could not in good conscience vote for impeachment because removal of a sitting President must not be the culmination of a partisan process, fueled by tribal animosities that have so gravely divided our country.”
Gabbard also said that she had introduced a censure resolution, which is basically a strong rebuke of the president.
She claimed that the resolution would send a message to Trump and future presidents while still leaving the question of removal to voters in 2020.
“My vote today is a vote for much-needed reconciliation and hope that together we can heal our country,” she concluded.
Gabbard’s decision still drew a lot of criticism from Democrats, and the topic trended on Twitter with hashtags that included #TulsiCoward and #TulsiIsARussianAsset.
Questions of Fairness in Senate Trial
With the Houses’ decision to impeach Trump, the process will now be passed off to the Senate, where a trial will be held.
Even before the House voted to pass the articles, the Senate was already gearing up to hold the impeachment trial.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) rejected Democrat’s demands to call four White House officials as witnesses.
He argued there were no reasons for the Senate to agree to hear testimony from officials who could help the Democrats’ case. The move was condemned by many Democrats.
McConnell also was criticized Tuesday for telling reporters that he would not be impartial in the impeachment trial.
“I’m not an impartial juror,” he said. “This is a political process. I’m not impartial about this at all.”
McConnell’s actions have raised more questions about whether or not Senate Republicans will hold a fair trial.
Pelosi Delays Sending Impeachment Articles to Senate
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi also appeared to share that concern.
After the House approved the articles, Pelosi said Wednesday night that she would delay sending them to the Senate until it is clear that the upper chamber would conduct a fair trial.
The move appears to be an effort to slow down the impeachment process and force Senate Republicans to set procedures that Democrats find more favorable.
“So far, we have not seen anything that looks fair to us, so hopefully, it will be fairer, and when we see what that is, we will send it over that matter,” she said.
Many Republicans reacted angrily to Pelosi’s decision, including Trump.
“Pelosi feels her phony impeachment HOAX is so pathetic she is afraid to present it to the Senate, which can set a date and put this whole SCAM into default if they refuse to show up!” the president wrote on Twitter.
McConnell also attacked the move in a speech on the Senate floor Thursday.
“It was made even made clear last night when Speaker Pelosi suggested that House Democrats may be too afraid, too afraid to even transmit their shoddy work product to the Senate,” he said.
“Mr. President, looks like the prosecutors are getting cold feet in front of the entire country, and second-guessing whether they want to do to trial.”
But Pelosi doubled-down on her stance while speaking at a press conference Thursday, where she also responded to McConnell’s accusations.
“It reminded me that our founders, when they wrote the Constitution, they suspected there could be a rogue president,” she said, referring to McConnell’s speech. “I don’t think they suspected that we could have a rogue president and a rogue leader in the Senate at the same time.”
McConnell and other Republican Senate leaders had initially said they wanted to hold the trial in January and make it as fast as possible.
Now, Pelosi’s plan to hold the articles until the Senate outlines a procedure the Democrats support could complicate that timeline.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Politico) (Fox News)
Senate Democrats and Republicans Reach Agreement With White House on $2 Trillion Stimulus Package
- After a long day of talks, Senate Democrats and Republicans reached an agreement with the White House on a stimulus package that would now cost the government $2 trillion.
- On Monday, Democrats shot down a stimulus package designed by Republicans and the White House.
- The revised package would include an increase in unemployment pay as well as an extension to unemployment insurance.
- It would also provide $500 billion to companies but would bar President Donald Trump, White House officials, and Congress from taking out loans for their businesses.
Senate Leaders and the White House Reach a Deal
After long talks and worries that lawmakers would go home empty-handed Tuesday, Senate Democrats finally reached a historic $2 trillion stimulus package with Senate Republicans and the Trump Administration around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.
The agreement, which comes after Senate Democrats blocked a different version of the bill on Monday, includes several noticeable differences.
While Republicans had sought to extend unemployment insurance for up to three months, Democrats convinced them to extend that program for up to four months. Additionally, the bill would reportedly expand eligibility to cover more people, including gig economy workers.
People eligible for benefits will also see an additional $600 each week from the federal government, on top of their state benefits. On average, people receive $385 in state benefits each week while on unemployment.
The bill also includes $150 billion to hospitals and other health-care providers for equipment and supplies. According to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the bill will also increase Medicare payments to all hospitals and providers.
As for direct checks, that breakdown remains unchanged. Adults making under $75,000 would receive two $1,200 checks and two $500 checks for each child. The first of those payments would go out on April 6.
People making above $75,000 would see a dip in that assistance, with payments phasing out altogether for people making more than $99,000 a year.
Trump and Congress Can’t Benefit From Business Loans
The bill also provides loan options for both small and large businesses.
Small businesses would receive more than $350 in aid. Notably, those loans would be federally guaranteed as long as a small business pledges not to lay off workers. If an employer continues to pay workers for the duration of the crisis, those loans would then be forgiven.
Big businesses would still receive about $500 billion to be used as back loans and assistance, a provision that originally led Democrats to vote down the previous version of the bill on Monday.
However, this bill also contains a few key limitations.
The most buzzworthy is that Democrats won language barring any business owned by President Trump from applying for those loans. That includes both Trump hotels and Mar-a-lago. Democrats sought such a measure because of their concern that Trump might try to use this bill to help his businesses, especially since many of them are connected to the travel industry.
Because they barred Trump, the bill also went a step further by also barring White House officials as well as any member of Congress.
Another limitation is that if a company does take out a loan, it will then be subject to a ban on stock buybacks through the term of the loan and for one year after.
Republicans also agreed to allow for an oversight board and to create a Treasury Department special inspector general for pandemic recovery. That is largely an attempt by the Democrats to ensure companies limit executive bonuses as well as take steps to protect workers.
Will the Bill Help the Economy and Will It Pass?
As far as if this bill actually will help the economy, that’s still unclear. With an economy that is slowing down every day and with stocks plunging over the last month, there is worry that it may not do enough; however, with more of the details of this package, stocks did see an uptick Tuesday morning.
Still, Congress is trying to move this bill into law as soon as possible. Reportedly, they’re rushing it through without public hearings or a formal review of the full bill.
If it passes through the Senate as expected, then it moves to the House of Representatives. Here, things could get a little trickier.
“This bipartisan legislation takes us a long way down the road in meeting the needs of the American people,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Wednesday. “House Democrats will now review the final provisions and legislative text of the agreement to determine a course of action.”
While Pelosi did say that the bill meets some of Democrats’ demands, she didn’t say how the House would vote. On Tuesday, as the agreement was being discussed among Senators and the White House, Pelosi said on CNBC that she hoped the House would pass it with unanimous consent.
While lawmakers are under extreme pressure to get a bill like this passed, unanimous consent may be a tall order for a $2 trillion bill that covers every aspect of the U.S. economy, especially because while the details of the bill have been released, the full document is still under wraps.
Because of that, it’s very possible that some lawmakers might hold off on passing the bill until a formal vote is held, and there have already been some concerns from both sides of the aisle.
If unanimous consent isn’t possible, some version—possibly a very similar version—of this bill will likely get passed; however, taking a formal vote could extend this process by several days. This is because representatives will likely be encouraged to wait an extended amount of time between their trips to the floor to vote.
From there, a couple things could happen. The House could pass a slightly different version. The House and the Senate would then need to hash out those details.
Or, the House could pass the legislation as is and go directly to Trump, who Mnuchin said would “absolutely, absolutely, absolutely” sign the bill.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Los Angeles Times) (CNN)
Trump Wants to Reopen the Economy by Easter, Experts Say It’s a Bad Idea
- President Trump indicated that he would like to reopen the economy by April 12, despite objections from public health experts who say doing so would make the coronavirus pandemic worse.
- Speaking at a press conference, the president said that keeping the economy closed will create “far bigger problems,” and claimed that more people will die from job losses than the coronavirus.
- Meanwhile, cases continue to grow at a rapid pace in the U.S., which reported more than 100 deaths in a single day for the first time Monday.
Trump’s Economic Priorities
President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he wants to ease coronavirus restrictions and reopen the economy by April 12, despite objections from public health experts.
“I would love to have the country opened up and raring to go by Easter,” Trump said during an interview with Fox News.
The president had previously indicated that he wanted to pull Americans out of recommended isolation and put them back to work sooner rather than later during a press conference the day before.
“America will again, and soon, be open for business — very soon — a lot sooner than three or four months that somebody was suggesting,” he said.
“We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. We’re not going to let the cure be worse than the problem,” Trump continued. “We have to open our country, because that causes problems that, in my opinion, could be far bigger problems.”
Trump said that he would wait until the 15-day period of recommended closures and self-isolation expires on March 30, and then reassess whether or not restrictions should be lifted and people should be sent back to work.
But when asked if any of the doctors on his team told him reopening the economy is the right move at this juncture, the president seemed to indicate that the medical experts should be taken with a grain of salt.
“Don’t forget, the doctors — if it were up to the doctors, they may say, ‘Let’s keep it shut down. Let’s shut down the entire world,’” he said.
When pushed on the question, Trump reiterated that keeping things shut down could create worse problems for the U.S. because of the size of the country’s economy and workforce.
“You have 160 — almost 160 million jobs in this country now — the most ever, by far,” he said. “So we can’t turn that off and think it’s going to be wonderful. There’ll be tremendous repercussions. There will be a tremendous death from that. Death. You know, you’re talking about death. Probably more death from that than anything that we’re talking about with respect to the virus.”
Cases in America Grow
While the president may believe that job losses will cause more deaths than the coronavirus pandemic, health experts say otherwise.
The vast majority of doctors and other medical experts say sending people back to work is the opposite of what the U.S. should be doing.
Despite what Trump may be telling the public, there is broad consensus that if the economy is reopened and people are forced to stop practicing social distancing, the coronavirus will continue to spread and there will be more deaths.
Trump’s remarks are especially concerning right now, as cases in the U.S. continue to grow rapidly. On Tuesday morning, the U.S. reported a total of 46,548 confirmed cases and 592 deaths— a significant jump in the death toll from just 24 hours prior.
In fact, on Monday, the U.S. reported more than 100 deaths in one day, marking the highest number of deaths reported in a single day in the country since the coronavirus pandemic started.
On Tuesday, the World Health Organization said that the U.S. has the potential to become the next epicenter of the disease due to the “very large acceleration” in cases in the states.
But most health officials knew that the situation would get worse before it got better, including those on Trump’s team and in his administration. A majority of experts believe that the U.S. has not hit its peak yet.
The countries that are scaling back their restrictions are doing so because they have reported consistent decreases in numbers— but the U.S. is reporting consistent increases. As a result, the U.S. needs to be ramping up restrictions, not scaling them back.
And when it comes to the economy, many economists believe that pushing to reopen at the risk of spreading the virus more will actually be worse. The move, they argue, could overwhelm the already overburdened health care system, create uncertainty for customers, and do more long-term damage.
“If you don’t flatten the curve and minimize those who are getting infected, the amount of sickness will cripple business,” said John Auerbach, the president of the nonpartisan group the Trust for America’s Health.
Even some of Trump’s biggest allies like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) agree.
“Try running an economy with major hospitals overflowing, doctors and nurses forced to stop treating some because they can’t help all,” Graham tweeted Monday. “There is no functioning economy unless we control the virus.”
See what others are saying: (NBC News) (Axios) (The Washington Post)
Defense Production Act Will Be Used For First Time in Coronavirus Pandemic to Secure Thousands of Test Kits
- FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor said Tuesday that the Defense Production Act will be used today to secure 60,000 coronavirus testing kits.
- This comes after days of backlash against President Trump who has been hesitant to use the act, which would compel private companies to manufacture highly-needed medical equipment.
- Still, cases of the virus are rapidly increasing, especially in New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the lack of ventilators and other supplies will soon lead to deaths that could have otherwise been prevented.
The DPA and Trump’s Hesitation to Use It
Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Peter Gaynor said Tuesday that the Trump administration will formally implement the Defense Production Act today to secure thousands of desperately needed coronavirus testing kids.
Last week, President Donald Trump invoked the DPA, a Korean-War era provision that requires and provides incentives for private companies to prioritize federal government orders for products tied to national defense. So essentially, under this act, the government could order private manufactures to fulfill federal orders for critical medical equipment including ventilators, masks, and other supplies.
But since signing the DPA, Trump has resisted actually using it, despite calls from politicians and medical associations for him to do so. The president has said he will only use the act in a “worst case scenario” and said that he’s concerned about nationalizing American businesses.
“We’re a country not based on nationalizing our business,” President Trump said at a press briefing on Sunday. “The concept of nationalizing our businesses is not a good concept.”
He has also repeatedly said that invoking the act wasn’t needed because so many private companies have already been volunteering to manufacture supplies, though he did say Sunday that “we may have to use it someplace along the chain.”
On top of that, the president has insisted that state leaders should bear more responsibility for obtaining the live-saving equipment themselves.
Calls For and Against DPA Use
Cases of COVID-19 have continued to rise, leaving hospitals across the nation in distress.
While several companies have actually been voluntarily redirecting their focus towards manufacturing or donating supplies, some have expressed concerns about doing so without clear guidance from the federal government that outlines what equipment is needed and where.
Even with some companies like Tesla, Facebook, and Apple, stepping in to provide supplies, the need is still incredibly high and local officials have been pleading with the public for any and all help.
In some cases, they’ve even had to pay hiked-up prices for personal protection equipment or had to compete against other states for supplies.
But some of Trump’s advisors and business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have raised concerns about using the act. They argue that mandating production could hurt some companies, complicate supply chains of key products, and further hurt the economy.
Others warned that the law isn’t a quick fix because it could take weeks or even months before facilities could reconfigure themselves to make these highly-needed goods.
FEMA Admin Says DPA Will Be Used
Still, Gaynor told CNN Monday, “We’re actually going to use the DPA for the first time today. There are some test kits we need to get our hands on.”
More specifically, he said triggering the act would help secure about 60,000 test kits. For reference, 1 kit alone serves roughly 300-400 patients. If what Gaynor told CNN is true, this would mark the first time the act has been used during the coronavirus pandemic.
The FEMA Administrator also said the administration would insert “DPA language” into the mass contracts for the federal government’s order of 500 million personal protective masks.
“So we’re going to use it. We’re going to use it when we need it. And we’re going to use it today,” Gaynor reiterated. “We want to be thoughtful and meaningful on how we do it again for the best result,” he added.
However, Gaynor later went on Fox & Friends to say that the law would be used narrowly as “leverage,” and still asked for local officials to bear the brunt of the burden.
“We ask every governor — if you can find it, buy it. We are ready to use the Defense Production Act,” he said. “If we need as it leverage, we have it as leverage now.”
NY Needs Help Now
But securing more tests still doesn’t address those who are in desperate need of other life-saving equipment. New York, for instance, has been very public about their shortages.
Cases around the state are already well over 25,000 and the spread doesn’t appear to be slowing. In fact, Governor Andrew Cuomo said during a Tuesday news conference that the rate of infections in the state is doubling about every three days.
He said the state has “exhausted every option” to combat the spread of the virus and criticized FEMA, questioning why the DPA isn’t being used to produce ventilators.
“FEMA says, ‘we’re sending 400 ventilators.’ Really? What am I going to do with 400 ventilators when I need 30,000?” Cuomo said. “You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die because you only sent 400 ventilators.”
Shortly afterward, Vice President Mike Pence admitted during a Fox News town hall that New York is “truly the epicenter of the coronavirus now in our country.”
He added, “We’re in the process of literally sending the entire national stockpile out.”
“Earlier today, FEMA from the national stockpile shipped 2,000 ventilators to the state of New York, and tomorrow there will be another 2,000 ventilators shipped from the national stockpile. We have a ways to go yet.”