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U.S. Senate aims to pass COVID-19 bill ahead of Trump trial -lawmaker

·2 min read

WASHINGTON, Jan 25 (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate is aiming to pass COVID-19 relief legislation before former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial begins in early February, a lawmaker said on Monday, amid growing signs of agreement on the need to speed vaccine distribution.

A day after some Republicans pushed back on the size of President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion relief proposal, Senator Angus King said the Senate plans to consider a bill in the next two weeks, while it also moves to confirm Biden's Cabinet ahead of the Trump trial's start during the week of Feb. 8.

"We're going to try to do something between now and the time of the impeachment trial beginning. That's a tall order, because we also have to do the confirmations," King, a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats who lead the Senate, told National Public Radio.

"Two weeks would be an aggressive schedule but I think that's where we're going to be going," he added.

It was not clear whether the Senate would try to pass the entire Biden proposal before Feb. 8 or focus on legislation with a more limited scope.

King and Republican Senator Bill Cassidy, who both participated in a call about COVID-19 relief with Biden administration officials on Sunday, said there is broad agreement about the need to move forward on vaccinations.

"We can all agree: we need to have money out there for vaccines," Cassidy told Fox News on Monday. "And testing, we can accept that."

King said there was a general consensus on Sunday's call to do "whatever we have to do to speed up the vaccination process. I don't think there's going to be any debate about that."

He added that the group on Sunday's call would speak again on Monday or Tuesday.

Although Biden's Democratic Party narrowly controls the House of Representatives and the Senate, legislation would need bipartisan support to become law.

In addition to the size of Biden's plan, Republicans and some Democrats are concerned about a proposal to send $1,400 stimulus checks to most Americans, even some with fairly high incomes.

While Congress has already authorized $4 trillion to respond, the White House says the additional $1.9 trillion is needed to cover the costs of responding to the virus and provide enhanced jobless benefits and payments to households.

House committees are expected to work on legislation this week, with the aim of being ready to put a bill on the House floor during the first week of February. (Reporting by David Morgan and Susan Heavey; Editing by Andrea Ricci)