The latest on Congress as GOP tensions rise

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani, Fernando Alfonso III and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 12:04 AM ET, Fri February 5, 2021
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11:30 a.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Pelosi unconcerned over potential GOP retaliation for Democrats stripping Greene of committees

From CNN's Daniella Diaz and Annie Grayer

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters this morning she has no concerns about Republicans retaliating for Democrats moving to strip GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committees.

“If anybody starts threatening the lives of members of Congress on the Democratic side, we’d be the first to eliminate them from committees. They had the opportunity to do so. I’m not answering any more questions about it," she told reporters.

Pelosi's comments come ahead of a House vote today on a measure to remove Greene from her committee assignments, a decisive step that comes in the wake of recently unearthed incendiary and violent past statements from the congresswoman that have triggered widespread backlash from Democrats and divided congressional Republicans.

Some more background: The move could set a risky precedent as Democrats target a sitting member of the opposing party in Congress over views expressed prior to her serving as an elected official  — one that has the potential to someday be used against the party by Republicans.

Outrage over Greene, who has in the past embraced the dangerous and debunked QAnon conspiracy theory, grew more intense in Congress in the wake of a report from CNN's KFile that she repeatedly indicated support for executing prominent Democratic politicians in 2018 and 2019 before being elected to Congress.

The Georgia Republican has also faced backlash over recently resurfaced comments about the 2018 Parkland school shooting.

CNN's Clare Foran contributed reporting to this post. 

12:00 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Here's where things stand in Congress on Covid-19 relief — and what comes next

From CNN's Lauren Fox

Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

At some point in the next 24 hours — after a long process of voting on a series of amendments — the Senate will pass their budget resolution to unlock their ability to write and pass a major Covid-relief bill with just 51 votes.

A reminder: The budget resolution is not the Covid-19 relief bill. It is just the shell that gives committees the ability to go on and write the Covid-19 relief bill and eventually pass it with just a simple majority.

First, however, lawmakers will have to get through what is known as a budget vote-a-rama.

Usually in the legislative process, lawmakers can use a series of procedural maneuvers to avoid voting on amendments. In a budget resolution, you can't do that. You cannot hold a final vote on a budget resolution until all the amendments have been "disposed of" or in simpler terms "voted on."

The practice involves votes on a series of amendments that can stretch for hours (and hours). There's a lot of snacks and (sometimes refreshments of the alcoholic variety) involved in helping members get through the evening.

None of these amendments are binding. None of the amendments change the underlying bill. But, the amendment votes serve as a way for each party to force the other side on the record about controversial issues. This is where future political ads are born.

What time does this vote-a-rama get started? Multiple aides tell CNN that the expectation is to begin the vote-a-rama around 2:30 p.m. ET. That's earlier than some past ones, but there is no prediction of when this will end. It keeps going until members get tired and leadership strikes a deal to end the whole thing.

What does each vote mean? The votes themselves don't have any effect on the budget resolution. They are non-binding, which means they can't change the bill and become law. These are votes of principles. And each party uses them to force the other side to take hard votes.

10:51 a.m. ET, February 4, 2021

White House will leave any intelligence briefing requests from Trump to intel community

From CNN's Phil Mattingly

The White House said the intelligence community would review any incoming request for an intelligence briefing from former President Donald Trump, and that in general, requests from a former President are supported by officials. 

“The intelligence community supports requests for intelligence briefings by former presidents and will review any incoming requests, as they always have,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told CNN.

A senior administration official told CNN the former president has not submitted any requests to this point. The official also noted that there are many ways intelligence can be presented, something the intelligence community would formulate should any request come in. 

10:23 a.m. ET, February 4, 2021

A power-sharing agreement was approved in the Senate yesterday. Here's what it means for Democrats.

From CNN's Ali Zaslav, Clare Foran and Lauren Fox

The Senate on Wednesday approved a power-sharing agreement that will allow Democrats to take control of committees after winning a narrow majority in the chamber and flipping it from GOP control.

Democrats won control of the Senate in January after winning a pair of US Senate seats in Georgia and the White House. However, without a power-sharing agreement, a stalemate has prevented the party from taking control of key committees since the chamber was operating under the rules of the last Congress, when the GOP was in charge.

A power-sharing agreement between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was needed to determine how power would be divided since the Senate has an even partisan split of 50-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris able to break ties.

The lack of an agreement had created complications for Democrats and delayed consideration of President Joe Biden's Cabinet nominees, including attorney general nominee Merrick Garland, who is expected to receive bipartisan support.

"This power-sharing agreement is almost identical to the 2001 agreement and will allow the Senate to be fairly run as an evenly-split body," McConnell said in a statement after the agreement was approved.

McConnell later announced committee assignments for the 117th Congress, with Senate Republicans who objected to the Electoral College results on Jan. 6 still holding key committee seats, which will give them a powerful and influential platform in the new Congress.

Schumer announced Wednesday morning that a power-sharing deal had been reached in principle on an agreement, and that it would be passed by the Senate later in the day.

1:29 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Key questions still loom ahead of Trump's second impeachment trial next week

From CNN's Jeremy Herb and Manu Raju

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

It's still unclear how long the second Senate impeachment trial of former President Trump will last — as Senate Democrats have hinted they want a speedy trial  — as well as whether House Democrats will call any witnesses, such as someone who could speak to the President's mindset and motivation before and during the Capitol riots.

"No idea," Rep. Jamie Raskin, the lead impeachment manager, said about how long the trial will last.

And asked if he believed it would include witnesses, Raskin said, "I think all that remains to be seen in the Senate."

Pressed on his preference, Raskin said, "justice" as he walked into the House chamber.

Both the House impeachment managers and Trump's legal team submitted pretrial legal briefs this week ahead of the trial that begins on Tuesday. Both sides are expected to submit one more round of pretrial briefs on Monday before the trial begins.

Trump's lawyers argued this week that it was unconstitutional for the Senate to hold an impeachment trial for a former president. Trump's team also contended that the former president's speech about election fraud did not incite the rioters and was protected by the First Amendment. "The 45th President exercised his First Amendment right under the Constitution to express his belief that the election results were suspect," Trump's lawyers wrote.

In their legal brief Tuesday, meanwhile, the House impeachment team's pushed back on the constitutional argument that Senate Republicans have coalesced around as reason to acquit Trump, pointing to the Senate's precedent for trying a former official and the fact that House impeached Trump while he was still in office.