During the first hundred days in office, a president can expect to enjoy a grace period, commonly called a “honeymoon period,” in which the popularity that swept them to power can be either capitalized upon or squandered. It is often a defining time in a presidency in which Congress and the media take a softer approach while the newly-ensconced White House resident finds his or her feet. But for Joe Biden, it appears that any attempts at making hay are about to be crushed by his own party.
With House Democrats successfully impeaching President Trump for a second time, the excited Cinderella seems destined not to have his fairy tale ball after all.
The Fourth Estate’s attention is focused squarely on whether the Senate can convict the president; in fact, this dominating story has swept almost all other news aside. But it is not solely the media from whom Biden requires consideration.
The earliest time the impeachment trial could begin is at 1 p.m. on Inauguration Day. As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) points out, “The Senate has held three presidential impeachment trials. They have lasted 83 days, 37 days and 21 days, respectively.” By the time the trial begins, Trump will have already left office, meaning any Republicans who wish to cause electoral damage to the new president simply have to draw out the process for as long as possible.
McConnell has indicated publicly that he is willing to listen to the arguments, giving some Democrats hope that they will be successful in their efforts. However, once President Trump is president no more, McConnell’s role becomes that of the official opposition. There is little doubt that he will use the proceedings to the advantage of his party … and it looks like Joe Biden knows it.
A Cry for Help?
Only two members of Joe Biden’s cabinet do not require Senate confirmation: Kamala Harris as vice president and Ronald Klain as chief of staff. All the other announced roles will have to run the gauntlet.
Biden appears caught between a rock and a hard place. He cannot claim to be the “unity” president while chasing an impeachment that essentially becomes moot in less than a week. Yet, it would be political suicide to ask his own party to stop the impeachment from being submitted to the Senate.
Shortly after the House impeachment vote, the next president of the United States issued a thinly veiled plea to his party to accept the win and move on. He wrote, “Now, the process continues to the Senate—and I hope they’ll deal with their Constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation.”
While speaking to reporters on Monday, he expounded upon his recent interactions with the Democrat senators. He relayed a conversation in which he asked, “Can we go half-day on dealing with the impeachment and half-day getting my people nominated and confirmed in the Senate?”
“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 the nation… From confirmations to key posts such as secretaries for Homeland Security, State, Defense, Treasury, and Director of National Intelligence, to getting our vaccine program on track, and to getting our economy going again. Too many Americans have suffered for too long over the past year to delay this urgent work.”
House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) has averred that Democrats could wait a while before sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate. Speaking to CNN’s State of the Union, he said, “Let’s give President-elect Biden the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running, and maybe we will send the articles sometime after that.”
This delay is in stark contrast to the exhortations of House members who rose to speak during the lower chamber vote. Numerous representatives insisted that the impeachment must not be delayed. Where does this leave a belabored Joe Biden?
Whether it is a genuine belief on the part of Democrats – and a handful of Republicans – that President Trump needs to be on trial in the Senate or merely political posturing, it seems any action from now on can only damage Biden’s presidential honeymoon. His first presidential battle may not turn out to be COVID, the economy, or even uniting a fractured nation, but taking control of a party that appears willing to cast him aside in favor of ambition or vindictiveness and revenge.
Read more from Mark Angelides.