Senators float Trump censure as GOP members object to impeachment

Biden orders tougher mask rules as part of overhauled COVID-19 strategy

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s first policy focus after being sworn in? Overhauling the disjointed federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which claimed another 4,400 American lives on his first day in office alone.

“The brutal truth is, it’s going to take months before we can get the majority of Americans vaccinated,” Biden said Thursday. “So while we increase vaccinations, we’re going to take steps necessary now to slow the spread of the disease.”

One of the initial executive orders he signed Wednesday requires mask-wearing and physical distancing in all federal buildings, on all federal lands, and by federal employees and contractors, plus a broad call for Americans to mask up during the next 100 days.

He followed that on Thursday with another mask-wearing directive — requiring their use on airplanes, trains and other public transportation — as well as rolling out a national strategy for combating the virus. 

Those steps by Biden mark a sharp shift from his predecessor, who repeatedly downplayed the public health threat and refused to wear a face mask. The Trump administration had left it up to states to craft their vaccine distribution plans, but didn’t push Congress to provide additional money, even as state officials sought more help for the mammoth task before them.

States also have complained about receiving too little or shifting information about vaccine shipments from Operation Warp Speed, the task force set up under the last administration to deliver vaccine doses.

More vaccine centers, more masking

Biden’s plan calls for more masking, testing, treatment and data.

He’s seeking to give states a boost in their vaccination efforts; fix supply shortages; support school reopenings; and improve equity in the pandemic response across racial, ethnic and geographic lines.

He aims to get 100 new federally supported vaccine centers operating by the end of February, and to provide staff to help run them.

Perhaps most of all, his administration says it wants to rebuild trust in the federal government’s statements about and response to the pandemic.

“Our national strategy is comprehensive. It’s based on science, not politics. It’s based on truth, not denial. And it’s detailed,” Biden said Thursday afternoon as he outlined his new coronavirus actions.

Among other changes, Biden’s 10 COVID-related executive orders and other directives would: Read more

Biden rolls out $1.9 trillion emergency package to battle pandemic and economic crises

U.S. House Dems say they have enough votes to impeach Trump

Kathy Manning is among five N.C. Congressional Democrats who support impeaching President Trump (Photo: US House)

WASHINGTON — At least 214 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives have signed on to a measure to impeach President Donald Trump that was introduced Monday, charging him with inciting the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last week.

Five North Carolina Democrats are among those who have signed the resolution: Reps. Alma Adams (District 12), G.K. Butterfield (District 1), Kathy Manning (District 6), David Price (District 4) and Deborah Ross (District 2).

Supporters of the impeachment effort say they would have enough votes to send charges against Trump — who is days away from leaving office — to the Senate for a second time.

There are 222 Democrats in the House and 211 Republicans, with one race still undecided and one vacancy, so Democrats would need 217 votes.

Four Democrats who serve on the House Judiciary Committee — Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Ted Lieu of California, Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Jerrold Nadler of New York — introduced the impeachment resolution.

“Most important of all, I can report that we now have the votes to impeach,” Cicilline wrote on Twitter as he posted a copy of the resolution.

The impeachment measure accuses Trump of making statements that “encouraged—and foreseeably resulted in — lawless action at the Capitol, such as: ‘if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.’”

The measure also cites Trump’s phone call directing Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” votes to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the state.

“In all this, President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of government,” the measure reads. “He threatened the integrity of the democratic  system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of government. He thereby betrayed his trust as president, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.”

The impeachment process could begin as soon as Wednesday, following a final effort to ask Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office, if a majority of the Cabinet also approves.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) sought on Monday morning to bring up for unanimous approval a resolution from Raskin that would urge Pence to begin the 25th Amendment process. Republicans objected to that action.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said the chamber will hold a floor vote on the resolution Tuesday, before moving to the impeachment process.

The impeachment process would typically begin in the House Judiciary Committee, but it is expected to go directly to the full House. If the article of impeachment is approved, the Senate would then hold a trial, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said would not begin until Jan. 19, the day before Biden is set to be sworn in.

At least two Senate Republicans have called for Trump to resign: Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

Toomey said in broadcast interviews over the weekend that he believes Trump “committed impeachable offenses,” and suggested that the outgoing president could potentially face “criminal liability” related to the Capitol insurrection. But Toomey stopped short of saying that he would vote to convict Trump if the House does send over articles of impeachment.

“Whether impeachment can pass the United States Senate is not the issue,” Hoyer told reporters Monday morning, according to a pool feed.

“The issue is we have a president most of us believe participated in encouraging an insurrection and an attack on this building and on democracy and trying to subvert the counting of the presidential ballot.”

 

Biden: To speed up vaccine rollout, all doses will be distributed to states