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Republican-led Senate takes first step to override Trump defense veto


Clouds pass over the Capitol Dome as the Senate resumes debate on overriding the veto of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on December 31, 2020 in Washington, DC.Joshua Roberts | Getty ImagesWASHINGTON — The Republican-led Senate on Friday joined the House in overriding President Donald Trump’s veto of a $740 billion defense policy bill.The veto override is the first of Trump’s presidency. The bill, known as the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, passed the House on Dec. 8. with the support of more than three-fourths of the chamber. A large majority of the GOP-controlled Senate also approved the bill, giving both chambers a higher share of yea votes than the two-thirds required to defeat a presidential veto.The Republican-led Senate reconvened midday to take up the $740 billion 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, which Trump refused to sign into law because it does not repeal certain legal protections for tech companies.Read more: Trump vetoes colossal $740 billion defense bill, breaking with Republican-led SenateSenators are expected to cast the first of two procedural votes aimed at overriding Trump’s veto, after the House of Representatives successfully voted to overturn it on Monday. If that succeeds, the Senate would then hold a second procedural vote followed by a final vote on passage on its last day in session on Saturday.”Here’s what the Senate is focused on: completing the annual defense legislation that looks after our brave men and women who volunteer to wear the uniform,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said. “We’ve passed this legislation 59 years in a row. And one way or another, we’re going to complete the 60th annual NDAA and pass it into law before this Congress concludes on Sunday.”The sweeping defense bill, that authorizes a topline of $740 billion in spending and outlines Pentagon policy, typically passes with strong bipartisan support and veto-proof majorities as it funds America’s national security portfolio. It has been signed into law every year for nearly six consecutive decades.The bill’s passage, at the minimum, secures soldier pay raises and keeps crucial defense modernization programs running.An F/A-18F Super Hornet launches from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alex Corona | U.S. NavyTrump offered a variety of reasons for opposing this year’s 4,517-page NDAA, taking issue with the bill both for what it contains and what it lacks.The president has demanded that the bill include language stripping social media companies of protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which guards them from being held liable for what users say on their platforms. Trump, who has used Twitter prolifically throughout his presidency, has long accused media outlets of bias.In his veto message to Congress, Trump wrote that the NDAA failed “to make any meaningful changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.” He called on Congress to repeal the measure.The president has previously said the measure posed a serious threat to U.S. national security as well as election integrity but did not give any further explanatory details.U.S. President Donald Trump speaks following the ceremonial swearing-in of James Mattis as secretary of defense on January 27, 2017, at the Pentagon in Washington, DC.Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty ImagesRepublican lawmakers have largely stood by the president during his turbulent four years in the White House. Since losing his re-election bid in November, Trump has lashed out at them for not fully backing his unsupported claims of voting fraud, rejecting his demand for bigger COVID-19 relief checks and for moving toward the veto override.The move comes ahead of next Tuesday’s U.S. Senate runoff elections in Georgia that will determine whether Republicans maintain control of the chamber.Georgia’s two U.S. senators, Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, have positioned themselves as strong supporters of the military and as staunch Trump allies, although Perdue is likely to miss the vote after quarantining himself following contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.Democrats, who in an unusual alignment with Trump welcomed his call for $2,000 direct relief payments, had hoped to use the NDAA to force a swift vote on a bill authorizing the checks, which would give Americans more than the $600 coming now. Some Republicans also back larger payouts.But Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell quashed the effort, tying larger checks to a competing bill with social media and election provisions that Democrats are sure to reject with little time left for maneuvering before the next Congress is sworn in on Sunday.Trump, who returned to Washington on Thursday from his private club in Florida, has ramped up pressure on fellow Republicans and slammed party leadership for failing to do his bidding on the two measures.”Weak and tired Republican ‘leadership’ will allow the bad Defense Bill to pass,” he said in a string of tweets this week, adding: “Unless Republicans have a death wish … they must approve the $2000 payments ASAP!”Republican tensions are also rising over some conservatives’ plan to object next Wednesday when the new Congress officially tallies the Electoral College votes certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential victory before he is sworn in on Jan. 20.McConnell, who publicly acknowledged Biden’s win, on Thursday raised questions in a call with his caucus over fellow Republican Senator Josh Hawley’s plan to object, according to media reports. At least 140 Republicans in the House are expected to launch similar objections despite Congress’ largely ceremonial role, CNN reported.Representatives for McConnell did not respond to a Reuters query seeking comment on the planned maneuvers, which could trigger a lengthy Senate debate but have no chance of overturning the results.Reuters contributed to this report.

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