After the Capitol Attack: What Happens Next
The fallout from Wednesday’s chaos at the Capitol continued Thursday — and will likely be felt for some time. Here are the top developments:
Congress certifies election, Trump says he will leave: Members of Congress returned to the Capitol Wednesday night to finish the job of certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, with several GOP senators backing off of plans to dispute the results in several swing states. After an earlier challenge to Arizona’s results failed, one final challenge, raised by dozens of House Republicans and joined by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), was also voted down.
The House is now set to be out of session until after Biden’s inauguration and the Senate has adjourned until January 19.
Soon after Congress certified Biden’s win early Thursday morning, President Trump acknowledged for the first time the coming end of his term in office — but he continued his inflammatory and baseless claims about the election.
“Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th,” he said in a statement posted to Twitter by White House social media director Dan Scavino.
Trump’s own Twitter and Facebook accounts had been locked after Wednesday’s violence, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday that the company will block Trump on its services indefinitely, but at least until the transfer of power in two weeks. “We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great,” Zuckerberg said.
Calls for Trump’s removal: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer joined in growing calls for Trump’s removal from office for his role in inciting Wednesday’s mob attack.
The Democratic leaders called on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to wrest the power of the presidency from Trump. Pelosi said that if Pence didn’t do so, Congress may pursue a second impeachment of the president, though with only 13 days left in Trump’s term, it’s unlikely that there’s enough time or political will to push ahead with such an effort. Some Republicans also called for the president to be removed from office, but Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) was the only GOP member of Congress to join more than 100 Democratic lawmakers in urging Trump’s removal or impeachment.
Administration officials resign: A growing number of Trump administration officials have resigned in the wake of Wednesday’s events. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced she will resign effective Monday, and other Cabinet resignations reportedly are coming.
Chao’s husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, had notably decried efforts by fellow Republicans to overturn the election results, calling his vote the most important of his 36 years in the Senate. “If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral,” he said Wednesday in a speech to a joint session of Congress shortly before the pro-Trump rioters breached the Capitol. “I will not pretend such a vote would be a harmless protest gesture while relying on others to do the right thing.”
Others who have resigned include:
- Tyler Goodspeed, acting chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers;
- Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s chief of staff and former White House press secretary;
- Sarah Matthews, a deputy White House press secretary;
- Mick Mulvaney, the special envoy to Northern Ireland and former acting White House Chief of Staff;
- Rickie Niceta, the White House social secretary;
- Matt Pottinger, deputy national security adviser.
Mulvaney had penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed published in November under the headline: “If He Loses, Trump Will Concede Gracefully.” On Thursday, the former top Trump aide told CNBC, “You hate to be wrong about something of this import.”
The bottom line: Trump’s probably still going to be in office until January 20, and it remains to be seen whether he’ll be held accountable in any way for Wednesday’s tragic riot. The New York Times reported Thursday that the president has told advisers in conversations since Election Day that he is considering pardoning himself — a move, the Times notes, “that would mark one of the most extraordinary and untested uses of presidential power in American history.”
Dems Pledge $2,000 Checks as Biden Agenda Gets a Boost From Georgia Victories
The Democratic sweep of the runoff Senate elections in Georgia may not have gotten as much coverage as the storming of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob Wednesday, but the results will have a powerful influence over legislative politics in the first two years of the Biden administration.
However difficult and contentious the final two weeks of the Trump administration may prove to be, the legislative landscape will change dramatically after January 20, when Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president and Democrats take control of the Senate, thereby achieving complete control of the executive and legislative branches of government.
“Buckle up!” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who’s set to become Senate Majority Leader, tweeted Wednesday morning, signaling that Democrats intend to speed ahead with their agenda. But any such effort is also likely to face a number of bumps along the way.
Here are some of the issues that are now on the agenda with Democratic control in Washington:
Nominees and judges: The most obvious effect of Democratic control of the Senate is that Biden will be able to fill his Cabinet and other administration posts more easily. Nominees that Republicans might have blocked, including Xavier Becerra for Health and Human Services Secretary and Neera Tanden for director of the Office of Management and Budget, will have an easier time getting confirmed. And Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell won’t be able to unilaterally block Biden’s appointments to the federal bench, including a potential replacement for 82-year-old Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.
$2,000 relief checks: Although the latest relief bill passed with a direct stimulus payment of $600 for most Americans, Democrats have embraced President Trump’s pre-Christmas call for $2,000 relief checks, and at least one party leader said the payments would be an early focus for lawmakers. “One of the first things that I want to do when our new senators are seated is deliver the $2,000 checks to the American families," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Wednesday. There are still plenty of questions about how that effort would play out, though, and it’s not clear that another round of direct payments would have enough support to pass Congress quickly.
Another big stimulus package: Democratic control in Washington makes it much more likely that Congress will pass another stimulus and relief package. Analysts at Goldman Sachs project a package worth $600 billion — about 2.7% of GDP — passing early in the Biden administration.
Reconciliation: One-party control opens the door to reconciliation, a budget process that allows lawmakers to pass budgetary legislation with a simple majority in the Senate, rather than the 60-vote margin required for most bills. This could provide a way for Biden to sign a massive bill — Chris Kreuger of Cowen Research says the package could be worth as much as $4 trillion — that includes a variety of spending measures, possibly including stimulus checks, subsidies for health insurance, green energy initiatives, infrastructure investment and more. The rules of reconciliation require no additional deficit spending after 10 years, so any package would likely include tax increases on the rich and corporations.
Economist Michael Pearce of Capital Economics notes that reconciliation, which can only be used once a year, would still present some challenges since it would require every Democratic Senator to go along, or the support of some moderate Republicans who aren’t likely to back tax hikes or other proposals. “[E]ven with unified control of Congress, we strongly doubt Biden will be able to get his most consequential legislative priorities passed,” Pearce told clients.
Climate change: Biden has laid out an ambitious, $2 trillion plan to combat climate change, and lawmakers could attempt to pass it on its own, outside of the reconciliation process. Opposition from Republicans and some conservative Democrats could make that difficult, though, especially in the Senate, where the new president would need to find 60 votes.
Health care: Biden is expected to pursue enhancements to the Affordable Care Act, including more generous subsidies and the creation of a public option. Additionally, lawmakers could pass legislation that would neutralize the Republican-led lawsuit seeking to invalidate the ACA, which the Supreme Court is expected to rule on this spring.
Senate committees: Democrats will take the reins of committees in the Senate. Potential leaders include Sens. Ron Wyden (OR) for finance, Patty Murray (WA) for health, Dick Durbin (IL) for judiciary, and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for budget.
Number of the Day: $95 Billion
Hurricanes, wildfires and other disasters caused $95 billion in damage across the United States in 2020, according to new data from reinsurance company Munich Re cited by The New York Times. The total is almost double the amount from the previous year and reflects the growing cost of climate change.
- Trump Caused the Assault on the Capitol. He Must Be Removed – Washington Post Editorial Board
- Why Trump Must Be Removed and Disqualified From Public Office – David Landau and Rosalind Dixon, New York Times
- Trump Wants Everything His Heart Desires — Including Riots – Timothy L. O'Brien, Bloomberg
- Jan. 6 Was 9 Weeks — and 4 Years — in the Making – Tim Alberta, Politico
- Impeach and Convict. Right Now. – Bret Stephens, New York Times
- The Only Strategy Left for Democrats – Rebecca Traister, New York
- With New Majority, Here’s What Democrats Can (and Can’t) Do on Health Care – Sarah Kliff and Margot Sanger-Katz, New York Times
- U.S. Has Been Down This Vaccine Rollout Road Before – Joe Nocera, Bloomberg
- Four Ways to Fix the Vaccine Rollout – New York Times
- What Will A Narrow Democratic Congress Mean For Joe Biden’s Tax Agenda? – Howard Gleckman, Forbes
- The Events of the Last Two Days Have Changed Biden’s Presidency in Profound and Unpredictable Ways – Glenn Thrush, New York Times