A visibly ebullient House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) opened her weekly news conference Thursday morning with relish: “What a difference a day makes!” Plainly, the new administration and a Senate Democratic majority, however slim, change the entire equation for her party, which the last administration and Republican Senate majority had stymied over and over again. And yet, William Faulkner’s adage was never more on point: "The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Going forward, Pelosi expressed confidence that the House will pass the waiver to exempt defense secretary nominee Lloyd Austin from the ban on military officials serving in the role with less than seven years as civilians. She reiterated the necessity of President Biden’s plan to “crush” the novel coronavirus and indicated support for the president’s immigration plan. (Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey will lead the Democrats’ effort in the Senate.) She also vowed to move forward with a bill that addresses “dark money” in political campaigns, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would combat voter suppression that is already underway as Republican legislatures seek to roll back access to mail-in voting in the wake of the election.

Yet the past has not passed. Pelosi is not about to forget the trauma that her members, staff and Capitol employees experienced as a result of the Jan. 6 assault. She refused to restrain her anger at the ex-president: “The fact is, the president of the United States committed an act of incitement of insurrection," she declared. “I don’t think it’s very unifying to say, ‘Oh, let’s just forget it and move on.’ That’s not how you unify.” As for any members who conducted reconnaissance tours for insurrectionists, she made clear that we need to be guided by the facts. However, she vowed that “if people did aid and abet, there’ll be more than just comments from their colleagues; there will be prosecution.”

She also defiantly rejected the notion that an impeachment trial would impede unity. “Just because he is gone — thank God — we don’t say to a president, ‘Do whatever you want in your last months of your administration. You’re going to get a get-out-of-jail card free because people think we should make nice-nice.’ ”:

She indicated that she does not expect the Senate trial will be “long” and that it will be up to the Senate and the House impeachment managers to decide what evidence to present. She made a key distinction between the first trial, in which the collection of evidence relevant to the former president’s “perfect call” with the president of Ukraine bolstered the charge that he extorted the Ukrainian government, and the second trial. With regard to the latter, she said, “The whole world bore witness to the president’s incitement, to the execution of his call to action and the violence that was used."

Pelosi knows that regardless of whether House Republicans get their noses out of joint about punishing incitement to sedition, her majority (plus moderate Republicans) will push forward her and Biden’s agenda. The Senate, where a single member can throw sand in the gears, has a different dynamic, but it would be foolish to think that Senate Republicans would be more accommodating if Democrats dropped impeachment.

There are plainly members including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who see the impeachment as justified; they will not somehow hold it against Biden if they are required to endure a Senate trial. As for the rest, including blowhards such as Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who had the temerity to threaten McConnell with the suggestion that he might not remain leader if he voted to convict Trump, let us not pretend they ever had any inclination to act in a bipartisan, responsible way.

Republicans cannot escape the consequences of their actions. Those in the House who incited violence could face expulsion and prosecution. In the Senate, Republicans have to decide whether they want to remain hostages to the MAGA mob and a disgraced president or be part of a democratic (small-"d") party that addresses the nation’s concerns.

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