President Joe Biden took office Wednesday as the 46th president of the United States. Michigan’s senior U.S. Senator, Debbie Stabenow, was in the audience. She talked to Michigan Radio's Morning Edition host Doug Tribou about the inauguration and her priorities under the new administration.
Doug Tribou: What stood out to you about the ceremony yesterday and President Joe Biden's message?
Debbie Stabenow: First of all, his message was very powerful and exactly what we all need to hear in terms of people getting beyond their own opinions, and so on, and reaching out to listen, and to work with other people to get things done for the country. We have so many things we've got to deal with, starting with people's lives and livelihoods, and children getting back to school safely. And he spoke in a way that I thought was exactly what we all need to hear and be called to, and that is that we've got to work together as a country.
DT: It hasn't been scheduled yet, but the Senate will hold a trial of former President Donald Trump following his impeachment in the U.S. House of Representatives. You're on the record saying you will vote to convict him on the charge of inciting insurrection. And a conviction requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate. How do you see that final vote playing out?
DS: Well, first, let me say, what happened two weeks ago was frightening and heartbreaking at the same time. ... [I]t really was an insurrection. So the House of Representatives, that one charge that I think on the face of it, everyone could watch on TV to see what the former president said. I believe that it's important to vote to convict. And I think most importantly is the next step, which is, as the Fourteenth Amendment also says, anyone involved in the overthrow of the United States government should not be able to run for office. And I think that clearly our former president was front and center encouraging and inciting what happened and should not be allowed to have the benefits of a president leaving office – salary, pension, and so on – and should not be able to run again.
DT: Do you think enough of your Republican colleagues will vote with you in order to convict?
DS: I think it will be a difficult thing to get to two thirds in the Senate on something like this. I'm not sure what will happen. It really depends on the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, who has been extremely critical of Donald Trump and in a way we've not seen before.
DT: Senator, you've mentioned a number of the priorities that President Biden has, including dealing with the pandemic and helping people who are suffering financially. What are your top priorities during this term?
DS: Well, first of all, we've got to get this COVID package done before we can do anything else because we can't continue to lose thousands of people a day. We can't continue to see Michiganders dying because of this virus and the lack of action. And we can't continue to see the struggle with our businesses. And children have got to get back to school safely. Also as part of this, we have the opportunity with a second package, once we have this COVID survival package put together, again with health and the immediate needs of people. We've got to move this economy forward. And I'm excited because the new president is very focused on a clean-energy economy, and whether it's electric vehicles, whether it's clean energy manufacturing of the component parts, Michigan will benefit.
DT: Senator, the pandemic and the riot at the Capitol forced a lot of changes to the inauguration ceremony yesterday. Senators normally have dozens of guests, but you had just one yesterday. What did it mean to you to have your 11-year-old grandson, Walter, with you at the inauguration?
DS: I have five grandchildren, and he is the one most interested in government and is in 6th grade. And so everyone agreed that he should be my guest. And it was exciting for me to give him that opportunity, really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I will say that they were very serious about protecting folks from COVID. Each of us, anybody going to the inauguration, had to get COVID tests within 48 hours and be negative before you can even come there. And since we were on the platform where the president and vice president were you know, they're very strict with their protocols, which is the right thing. So it was, I think, a special day for him. And I know for me it was a special day.
Editor's note: Quotes in this article have been edited for length and clarity. You can hear the full interview near the top of this page.