Jan 17, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Schumer's m(aj)ority checklist

Sen. Chuck Schumer wearing a medical mask and riding up an escalator in the Senate building basement.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Capitalizing on the Georgia runoffs, achieving a 50-50 Senate and launching an impeachment trial are weighty to-dos for getting Joe Biden's administration up and running on Day One.

What to watch: A blend of ceremonies, hearings and legal timelines will come into play on Tuesday and Wednesday so Chuck Schumer can actually claim the Senate majority and propel the new president's agenda.


1. Swear in new senators: Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock can't become the 49th and 50th Senate Democrats until the Georgia secretary of state certifies their runoffs.

  • An official Brad Raffensperger's office told Axios that's likely to happen on Wednesday — Inauguration Day. But it could drag until a statutory deadline on Friday.

2. Replace the vice president: California Secretary of State Alex Padilla must be sworn in to replace incoming Vice President Kamala Harris, who plans to resign her Senate seat on Monday.

  • Padilla could do so as early as Tuesday — the day senators return from recess — but he told reporters last week it would likely happen Wednesday.

3. Assume majority mantle: Schumer still won't get to claim his new title until Harris is sworn in as vice president, empowering her to cast tie-breaking votes as Senate president. That happens just before noon Wednesday.

4. Divvy up power: Schumer and soon-to-be Minority Leader Mitch McConnell must settle on a power-sharing agreement, such as which party controls committees. There's precedent from the 50-50 Senate in 2000.

5. Hold confirmation hearings: So far, Senate committees have scheduled hearings for only five of Biden's Cabinet nominees — on the lower end, historically.

  • All five hearings — for State, Defense, Homeland Security, National Intelligence and Treasury — are now scheduled for Tuesday. They point to the importance of maintaining national security and economic confidence.

6. Plan impeachment: Schumer and McConnell also have to sort out when and how they'll hold President Trump's second impeachment trial.

  • The trial threatens to consume valuable time during Biden's first 100 days. The president-elect has suggested splitting legislative workdays to focus daily on impeachment and confirmation hearings.

7. Finish everything else: Biden recently unveiled a $1.9 trillion coronavirus package, and there's expected proposals for immigration legislation, infrastructure construction, etc.

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