The Senate voted Friday to override President Donald Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act, marking the first override of Trump’s presidency and delivering a rare and final rebuke by GOP lawmakers who have mostly demonstrated unwavering fealty to the president.
Trump said he vetoed the $740 billion spending package, a key piece of legislation that funds the military, because of a provision to rename military bases that honored Confederate officials and failure to repeal a liability shield for social media companies.
But lawmakers joined forces Friday to overwhelmingly reject Trump’s complaints, voting by an 81-13 margin to clear the required two-thirds majority and ensure passage of a bill they called “essential” in deterring an aggressive China, protecting the U.S. from a new wave of cyberattacks and supporting the nation’s troops around the world.
The House voted Monday to override Trump’s veto, and there was little Senate debate Friday before proceeding to the final vote.
Following the House vote to override his veto, Trump blasted “Weak and tired Republican leadership” in a tweet and called the action by lawmakers a “disgraceful act of cowardice and total submission by weak people to Big Tech.”
Lawmakers in both parties have pointed out that Trump’s demands to jettison liability shields for tech companies was not germane to military policy or spending. Social media titans like Twitter and Facebook have drawn Trump’s ire for putting warning labels on dozens of his posts.
After taking action last week, Trump didn’t appear to bother to lobby lawmakers against overriding his veto revamping the defense bill to his liking. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the No. 2 GOP lawmaker in the Senate, told reporters he received no outreach from the White House in recent days and didn’t know of any colleagues who did.
The veto override on the first day of the new year comes as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has blocked a bill to increase direct COVID-19 relief payments to families from $600 to $2,000, something Trump demanded.
After House Democrats, who had long sought the larger payments, quickly passed an amendment beefing up the direct relief checks, McConnell opted to fold the measure into a vote on repealing Section 230, making the proposal unpalatable to both Democrats and Republicans and effectively killing it.
During floor debate Friday, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., lambasted Republicans for avoiding an up or down vote on sending people $2,000 checks. Calling it “the last chance” to take that action, Schumer suggested there would be political fallout for Republicans just days before a two critical Senate runoff elections in Georgia that could swing control of the Senate to Democrats. Voters “will know that Leader McConnell and Republicans” blocked the push to put more money in people’s pockets, he said.
Republicans, in outlining their opposition to the proposal, have argued that the additional relief isn’t sufficiently targeted to help the Americans who need it most.
Trump attacked Thune on Twitter shortly after the senator had argued against the bigger relief checks on the Senate floor, suggesting that South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who has become a staunch defender of the president, mount a primary challenge to him in 2022.
“She would do a fantastic job in the U.S. Senate, but if not Kristi, others are already lining up,” Trump tweeted. “South Dakota wants strong leadership, NOW!”
All of this is prologue the final ratification by Congress on Wednesday of the 2020 election results.
A handful of Republicans in the House and at least one senator, Republican Josh Hawley of Missouri, have said they will formally challenge the election results next week, forcing debate and an eventual vote in both chambers on whether to accept the Electoral College results that show former Vice President Joe Biden to have won.
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