President-elect Joe Biden's team unveiled plans Thursday for fighting Covid and injecting $1.9 trillion into the struggling US economy, but already his ambitious first 100 days agenda is overshadowed by the looming Senate trial of his soon-to-be predecessor Donald Trump.

Trump impeachment trial looms over Biden’s first 100 days agenda

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by Sebastian Smith

President-elect Joe Biden’s team unveiled plans Thursday for fighting Covid and injecting $1.9 trillion into the struggling US economy, but already his ambitious first 100 days agenda is 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 subjected to a second impeachment — Biden hopes to seize the narrative in a primetime address and get Americans looking forward again.

With his fellow Democrats narrowly controlling both houses of Congress, Biden has a shot at passing what would be the third massive pandemic aid package.

What he is less keen to talk about, however, is the impending trial of Trump, something that will introduce a potentially nightmarish mix of scheduling complications and political drama into an already tense Senate.

In his televised speech, Biden will 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 the economic recovery from the cratering of 2020 could backslide.

His proposal, dubbed the American Rescue Plan, will include a host of measures aimed at revitalizing the world’s largest economy, senior officials in his incoming administration said Thursday.

Among those are raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, aiding struggling state and local governments, safely reopening schools, rolling out a massive Covid-19 vaccination campaign and boosting the size of stimulus checks Congress approved last month.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said they would hit the ground running in order to assure the plan’s success.

“We will get right to work to turn President-elect Biden’s vision into legislation that will pass both chambers and be signed into law,” they said in a joint statement, following release of Biden’s plan.

Biden, who will be sworn in January 20, is also promising to get vaccinations off the ground, with an eye-catching slogan of 100 million shots administered in the first 100 days.

The president-elect plans to tackle all of this at the same time, putting one of the darkest periods of American history in the rearview mirror.

It’s a tall order.

Yet Biden takes office with one advantage he wasn’t expecting even a few weeks ago: full, if narrow, control of Congress.

Shock victories by Democrats in Georgia’s two Senate run-off races mean Democrats have slim majorities in both chambers.

This will also help Biden in getting confirmations of his cabinet picks. Among those beginning the process is Janet Yellen, whose nomination for Treasury secretary will be examined by the Senate Finance Committee on January 19.

– Elephant in the room –

The elephant in the room, however, is impeachment.

Trump was charged in the House of Representatives Wednesday for inciting insurrection by egging on a huge crowd of his 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, scratched that idea.

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

A McConnell statement that he is open-minded on Trump’s guilt raises the possibility that Trump could end up being convicted by a two-thirds majority in the Senate.

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

But before any of that, senators will have to thread the tightest of needles in figuring out how to simultaneously try a Republican former president while cooperating on an agenda sent by a new Democratic president.

Biden is trying to persuade the chamber to “bifurcate” and deal with the two contrasting tracks in an organized, efficient way, going “a half day with the impeachment and a half day getting my people nominated and confirmed in the Senate as well as moving on the (Covid) package.”

After Trump’s impeachment Wednesday, Biden again appealed for a careful 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,” he said.

Agence France-Presse

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Rule of law prevailed: Trillanes hails CA ruling junking revival of rebellion raps

Former senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Tuesday (March 2) hailed the favorable ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA) concerning his rebellion case.

“Today, the rule of law prevailed,” Trillanes declared.

With this, the former lawmaker also expressed gratitude to the appellate court for the favorable ruling.

“Nagpapasalamat ako sa mga CA justices na gumawa ng desisyong ito,” he stated.

“Sana all na judges and justices ay may ganitong sense of justice to check the prevailing authoritarianism in the country,” he added,

Trillanes’s petition before the CA assailed the 2018 orders of Makati City Judge Elmo Alameda to issue a hold departure order (HDO) and arrest warrant against the former lawmaker even though the same magistrate dismissed back in 2011 the rebellion case against him.

The case was dismissed by the judge in 2011 after Trillanes was granted amnesty by then President Benigno Aquino III.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) sought to revive the case before the Makati court after President Rodrigo Duterte revoked the amnesty.

Sinong guilty? Lord Velasco’s allies gang up on Alan Cayetano after ally exposes P20-B budget cut

By Billy Begas

Allies of House Speaker Lord Allan Jay Velasco slammed the camp of Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano for his supporters’ attempt to drag the Marinduque lawmaker in the issue involving the P20 billion pension and gratuity fund of uniformed government personnel that was diverted to infrastructure projects.

Senior Deputy Speaker Salvador Leachon said it was clear based on the explanation of House Committee on Appropriations chairperson Eric Yap that the slashed P20 billion will not be used this year to pay the pension and gratuity of uniformed personnel.

“Based on Congressman Yap’s accounts, which I find to be accurate, the current problems involving the pension of uniformed retirees was due to the P70-billion cut in their budget for the year 2020, during Cayetano’s term,” Leachon said.

Yap said that the House then led by Cayetano slashed P70 billion from the 2020 national budget.

Earlier, Anakalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor said that he did not know what happened then. “Hindi ko ho alam kung nag-usap sila (House-led Cayetano and Department of Budget and Management) pero ang sigurado ko ho nagrereklamo ngayon ang DBM dahil binawasan ang pension fund.”

Yap claimed that the DBM knows the reduction of budget.

“Their unfounded allegations against Speaker Velasco boomeranged to them when it turned out the current problems faced by uniformed retirees was brought about by the more than P70 billion deducted from the 2020 PGF budget during Cayetano’s time,” said Leachon.

Defensor contradicted Leachon’s claim in a text message. “How can it have boomeranged when Chair Eric Yap admitted that they slashed the Pension and Gratuity Fund by 20 billion. They should not over complicate and over think- return the 20 billion to our military, police and uniformed personnel pension and gratuity fund.”

Defensor also challenged the camp of Velasco to show to the public that they did not use it as pork barrel fiund.

Deputy Speaker and Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves said Defensor’s accusations were “part of an obvious attempt to antagonize Speaker Velasco.”

“It was obviously premeditated with some members of the so-called ‘BTS sa Kongreso’ present to interpellate Defensor and tried but failed to amplify the allegations against Speaker Velasco,” Teves said referring to Back To Service sa Kongreso formed by Cayetano in January.

Teves added that the game plan of Cayetano’s camp was to make Velasco “look bad in the eyes of President Duterte by attacking the Speaker on an issue very close to the Chief Executive’s heart—the pension and gratuity pay of police and military retirees.”

Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza, meanwhile, blasted Cayetano’s group for hypocrisy following the revelation of Deputy Speaker Isidro Ungab that the Cayetano-led House manipulated the 2020 national budget, which resulted in budget cuts totaling P209 billion, including the P70 billion slashed from pension and gratuity fund.

“Umaalma sila sa binawas na P20 billion na napunta naman sa COVID-19 response ng gobyerno pero ‘yung P70 bilyon at kabuuang P209 bilyon na tinapyas nila sa 2020 national budget e okay lang sa kanila,” said Atienza.

Defensor said it is not true that the P20 billion went to purchase COVID-19 vaccines.

He said that based on the copy of the General Appropriations Act, the budget for vaccines remained at P2.5 billion.

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