WASHINGTON (AP) — The end of former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial opens a new chapter for his successor in the White House.
However, while President Joe Biden and his team are eager to move past the impeachment, the partisan tone of the proceedings underscores the challenges ahead as the president and his party try to push forward their agenda and address historic crises.
Biden, who was at the Camp David presidential retreat when the Senate voted Saturday to acquit Trump, had acknowledged Democrats needed to hold the former president responsible for the siege of the U.S. Capitol but did not welcome the way it distracted from his agenda.
The trial ended with every Democrat and seven Republicans voting to convict Trump, but the 57-43 vote was far from the two-third threshold required for conviction. Whether the seven GOP votes against Trump offered Biden any new hope for bipartisan cooperation within Congress remained an open question.
Biden was expected to address the verdict in a written statement, but his aides aimed to move on — something Democrats said they've been waiting to do for weeks.
Biden made a point of not watching the trial live, choosing to comment only briefly on the images of the riot that gripped the nation. Though his White House publicly argued the trial did not hinder their plans, aides privately worried a lengthy proceeding could bog down the Senate and slow the passage of his COVID-19 relief bill.
That $1.9 trillion proposal is just the first part of a sweeping legislative agenda Biden hopes to pass as the nation battles the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 480,000 Americans and rattled the nation's economy.
"The No. 1 priority for Democrats and the Biden administration is going to be to deliver on the promises that have been made on the pandemic, both on the vaccine front and the economic front," Democratic strategist Josh Schwerin said.
The end of the impeachment trial frees the party to focus on less divisive and more broadly popular issues and policies, like the coronavirus relief package, which polls show has significant support among Americans.
Throughout his campaign, Biden sought to draw a contrast on policy and competence, a guiding principle he and his aides have carried over into the White House.
His team kept up a steady drumbeat of events during the trial, including an update on vaccine development and Biden's first visit to the Pentagon as commander in chief. With the proceedings on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue now over, the White House plans to increase its efforts to spotlight the fight against the pandemic.
Former Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, of North Dakota, predicted in a state like hers, where Trump won 65 percent of the vote, focusing on those urgent issues would make more headway with average voters now.
"What we have to be talking about is the economy — getting the economy back working, and turning the page" on the last administration, she said. "Good policy is good politics. We need to get back to that."
Democrats have a decision to make in how to deal with Trump going forward. While the end of the impeachment trial offers an opportunity for the party to focus on its own agenda, Trump can also be a potent political weapon for Democrats, not to mention a big driver of campaign cash.
After Saturday's vote, American Bridge 21st Century, the Democratic Party's opposition research arm, issued a statement calling out senators from Ohio and Florida, two states that Democrats are targeting in the 2022 election, for voting against convicting Trump.
"Ron Johnson, Marco Rubio, and nearly every other Senate Republican put their loyalty to Donald Trump ahead of the rule of law, the Capitol police officers who protect them every day, and the oaths they swore to uphold the Constitution," said Bradley Beychock, the group's president, calling the senators "spineless sycophants."
Still, Schwerin cautioned Trump can't be Democrats' "primary focus."
"We shouldn't ignore the fact that a lot of the problems that the country is dealing with are because of Trump's failures, but he shouldn't be the focus of every fundraising email and press release. We should be looking forward," he said.
Biden plans to keep up a busy schedule focused on the coronavirus pandemic in the coming week.
The president will make his first official domestic trips this week: a TV town hall Tuesday in Wisconsin to talk to Americans impacted by the coronavirus and a visit Thursday to a Pfizer vaccine facility in Michigan.
White House legislative affairs staffers were poised to work with House committees on crafting details of the COVID-19 relief bill, which Democrats hope to vote on next month.