Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made his most definitive break yet with President Trump on Tuesday while the leader of the incoming Democratic majority laid out an ambitious agenda for the opening weeks of the Biden administration, signaling a dizzying changing of the guard in Washington.
McConnell (R-Ky.) for the first time directly blamed Trump for the lethal Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. “The mob was fed lies,” he said in his final floor speech closing out six years as majority leader. “They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.”
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) outlined a rapid-fire agenda for the coming weeks that includes confirming Biden’s Cabinet nominees, approving trillions in additional pandemic aid and barring Trump from holding office — despite an uncertain road map in the 50-50 Senate, which is struggling even to adopt its basic rules.
Schumer is set to move from minority leader to majority leader on Wednesday, when the Senate meets shortly after the inauguration of Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris, who will tip the chamber toward Democrats with her tie-breaking vote.
“The next several months will be very, very busy and a very consequential period for the United States Senate,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “Let us begin our work in earnest.”
Significant obstacles threaten each of Schumer’s early goals: Republicans have thrown up early roadblocks to some of Biden’s key nominees, GOP fiscal concerns could make a bipartisan coronavirus bill difficult to pass, and Trump’s impeachment trial threatens to consume the earliest days of the Senate Democratic majority.
Beyond that, Schumer and McConnell reached an impasse Tuesday in talks to set the operating rules of the equally divided Senate — making any action a challenge — as McConnell demanded that Democrats drop any notion of ending the legislative filibuster.