Biden focuses on the economy on second day in office

By Meg Wagner and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 8:45 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021
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1:32 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

White House says Senate impeachment is "a constitutional obligation," but Covid-19 stimulus is pressing, too

National Economic Council Director Brian Deese was just asked how the looming Senate impeachment trial of former President Trump could impact Congress' work on a possible Covid-19 relief plan.

"We are facing right now a period of multiple crises, and what we're going to need is to be able to act on multiple fronts," he said when asked if a trial in the month of February could impact passing stimulus.

He continued: "We understand that the Senate has a constitutional obligation in this context, but we also have these pressing economic and pandemic priorities as well, so we're going to — that's why we're engaging, that's why we're focused on making the case and certainly with the expectation that Congress will heed that call and move forward."

Earlier today, Sen. Chuck Schumer announced the article of impeachment against Trump will be delivered to the Senate on Monday, meaning an impeachment trial could begin as early as next week.

If lawmakers don't reach as agreement to split trial days between impeachment and other work, Senate Republicans have said the body won't conduct any other business — such as a Covid-19 relief deal or confirming Biden's Cabinet picks — on trial days.

WATCH:

1:39 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

White House says Biden's executive actions are "not a substitute" for legislation

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

National Economic Council Director Brian Deese said President Joe Biden’s economic executive actions are not a substitute for the Covid-19 relief package the White House is pushing Congress to pass, but will provide a “critical lifeline” to struggling Americans. 

“These actions are not a substitute for comprehensive legislative relief, but they will provide a critical lifeline to millions of families,” Deese said at Friday's White House press briefing. 

“The American people are hurting and they can't afford to wait,” Deese said. 

Biden is expected to sign two executive orders on Friday — one focused on expanding food assistance and delivering stimulus checks to very low-income Americans, and another on raising the minimum wage to $15 for the federal workforce. These measures do not require legislation. 

These actions build on the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief plan Biden outlined last week, which would fund a nationwide vaccination effort and provide direct economic relief to Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic, including providing $1,400 stimulus checks. 

WATCH:

1:13 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

NOW: The White House press secretary gives updates on Biden's economic initiatives

Pool
Pool

Press secretary Jen Psaki is holding a press briefing. She's joined by National Economic Council Director Brian Deese.

Later today, President Biden will speak about his administration’s response to the economic crisis and will sign executive orders. His administration is focusing on the nation's economic recovery today.

12:31 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Biden signs first bill into law as President, granting a waiver to his Defense pick

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

Alex Brandon/AP
Alex Brandon/AP

President Biden has signed H.R. 335, which provided a waiver to permit retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as secretary of Defense in his administration, into law. 

Both chambers of Congress approved the waiver on Thursday, and the Senate voted to confirm Austin to the role earlier on Friday, making him the first African American to run the Department of Defense. Austin becomes the second Biden cabinet official confirmed by the Senate.

This is the first piece of legislation Biden has signed into law as President, though he has already signed a slew of executive actions and presidential memorandums.

12:23 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

It's unlikely confirmation votes for Biden's Treasury and State secretary picks will happen today

From CNN's Ted Barrett

Senators in both parties say they are unable to get unanimous consent agreements to move votes for either Janet Yellen or Anthony Blinken today.

Yellen is Biden's pick to lead the Treasury department and Blinken is the President's nominee for secretary of state.

However, Republican Sen. John Thune said that a decision on votes is not yet final. 

Votes for these two nominees are likely to happen Monday, if they don't take place today. 

12:26 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Lindsey Graham says the Senate is "not going to split the day" during the trial

From CNN's Ali Zaslav

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., listens during a confirmation hearing for Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., listens during a confirmation hearing for Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. Alex Edelman/Pool/AP

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, said he doesn’t think Republicans should agree to split impeachment trial days to also consider other legislative business, such as Covid-19 relief and confirming President Biden’s cabinet nominees, for the duration of the trial.

“We’re not going to split the day,” Graham said Friday. “At least I wouldn’t. That’s the business of the Senate, once we go into it, they’re choosing to do this. We’re going to do it the way we’ve always done it. We’ve never split the day.”

He also said he’s hopeful Schumer and McConnell will reach an agreement “fairly quickly” on how to proceed to the trial, after the New York Democrat announced this morning that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will send over the article of impeachment on Monday.

12:48 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Pelosi officially announces the House will deliver impeachment article on Monday

From CNN's Manu Raju

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Susan Walsh/AP

After Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's announcement earlier today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement confirming that the article of impeachment will be transmitted to the Senate on Jan. 25. 

Her full statement says:

“The article of impeachment for incitement of insurrection by Donald Trump will be delivered to the Senate on Monday, January 25.
 Our Constitution and our country are well served by the extraordinary leadership of Lead Manager Jamie Raskin, and Representatives Diana DeGette, David Cicilline, Joaquin Castro, Eric Swalwell, Ted Lieu, Stacey Plaskett, Madeleine Dean and Joe Neguse.
We are respectful of the Senate’s constitutional power over the trial and always attentive to the fairness of the process, noting that the former president will have had the same amount of time to prepare for trial as our Managers. Our Managers are ready to begin to make their case to 100 Senate jurors through the trial process.
Exactly one week after the attack on the Capitol to undermine the integrity of our democracy, a bipartisan vote of the House of Representatives passed the article of impeachment, which is our solemn duty to deliver to the Senate.”
11:57 a.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Senate committee will vote on Biden's Homeland Security pick next week

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez

 

Homeland Security Secretary nominee Alejandro Mayorkas testifies during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Homeland Security Secretary nominee Alejandro Mayorkas testifies during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Joshua Roberts/Pool/AP

The Senate Homeland Security Committee will hold a vote on the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas, who President Biden has selected to lead the Department of Homeland Security, at 11 a.m. ET Tuesday.

The Cuban-born Mayorkas, 61, was among President-elect Joe Biden's earliest announced nominees and would be the first Latino and immigrant to serve at the helm of the department.

If confirmed, he'll be expected to swiftly begin rolling back Trump administration immigration policies, while juggling a response to a global pandemic, threats to the homeland, and restoring a department that's been rattled by leadership turnover and vacancies for the better part of the last four years.

12:47 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Lloyd Austin makes history as the nation's first Black Defense secretary

Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool/AFP/Getty Images
Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The Senate just voted on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis to confirm President Biden's Defense secretary nominee, retired Gen. Lloyd Austin. The vote was 93-2.

That makes Austin the first African American to run the department.

The epic nature of Austin's journey – from a childhood in deeply segregated Alabama, through a military still plagued with racial inequity, to the pinnacle of US national defense – might be matched only by the scale of the challenges that now face him there.

Austin will be one of the most prominent members of Biden's Cabinet. The secretary of Defense is in control of the nation's largest government agency, commanding troops around the world and the complicated internal workings of the Pentagon that make it one of the world's most formidable bureaucracies.

Defense Department data shows that while Black service members represent 19% of all enlisted personnel, they make up only 9% of the mostly White, male officer corps. Biden noted in The Atlantic that Austin was "the 200th person ever to attain the rank of an Army four-star general, but only the sixth African American."

Biden vowed his Cabinet would look like the country picking leaders that if confirmed, will make history as the most diverse group ever to lead federal agencies.

Take a look at what Biden's Cabinet looks like here.

Watch the Senate's vote: