U.S. President Donald Trump is urging the Senate to uphold his veto of a $740 billion defense spending measure, even as he predicts that the “weak and tired Republican leadership” in the chamber will allow the veto to be overridden.
In the first such rebuke against Trump coming in the waning days of his four-year presidency, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly late Monday to override his veto and the Senate could do the same on Wednesday. The Senate approved the legislation by an 84-13 margin earlier this month, far more than the two-thirds vote needed to override Trump’s veto.
Trump on Tuesday called the defense legislation “a disgraceful act of cowardice and total submission by weak people to Big Tech.” He tweeted, “Negotiate a better Bill, or get better leaders, NOW! Senate should not approve (the National Defense Authorization Act) until fixed!!!”
However, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell concurred with Trump’s assessment that his veto would be overridden, telling the Senate, “Soon this important legislation will be passed into law.”
The president has criticized the defense bill on several fronts, arguing without explanation that it benefits China. He also said it restricted his ability to bring U.S. troops home from “foreign lands who do NOTHING for us.”
Trump has also demanded the removal of language that allows the renaming of U.S. military bases that honor leaders of the Confederacy, which seceded from the United States in the early 1860s, before collapsing at the end of the Civil War in 1865.
He has called for the repeal of a provision that protects social media companies from liability over content their users post. Trump has voiced his displeasure that Twitter has frequently labeled his claims that he was defrauded of reelection as “disputed,” while also noting that Democrat Joe Biden won the Electoral College vote that will make him the new U.S. president when Biden is inaugurated January 20.
Separately, Democrats pushed the Senate Tuesday to pass higher coronavirus pandemic relief payments to Americans, meeting Trump’s demand for $2,000 checks already approved by the House to replace the $600 stipends called for in legislation Trump signed late Sunday.
But McConnell blocked an immediate up-or-down vote on the $2,000 payments, saying they would be considered this week along with Trump’s demand to curb the ability of technology companies to assess the validity of comments on social media and purported election irregularities.
“Those are the three important subjects the president has linked together,” McConnell said. “This week the Senate will begin a process to bring these three priorities into focus.”
Trump tweeted, “Unless Republicans have a death wish, and it is also the right thing to do, they must approve the $2000 payments ASAP. $600 IS NOT ENOUGH! Also, get rid of Section 230 - Don’t let Big Tech steal our Country, and don’t let the Democrats steal the Presidential Election. Get tough!”
Some Republicans expressed support for the bigger coronavirus payments to those with annual family incomes of up to $150,000, comprising about 81% of all U.S. households. Among the Republican proponents are Georgia’s two embattled senators — David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler — who are facing runoff elections against Democratic challengers next week who also favor the bigger payments.
Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement, “There’s strong support for these $2,000 emergency checks from every corner of the country. Leader McConnell ought to make sure Senate Republicans do not stand in the way of helping to meet the needs of American workers and families who are crying out for help.”
But some Republicans have voiced opposition, saying the bigger payments would be too costly and would not necessarily boost the U.S. economy, which has been staggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Congressman Kevin Brady of Texas said the bill would not help the nation’s unemployed get back to work.
"I worry that as we spend another half a trillion dollars so hastily, that we are not targeting this help to the Americans who are struggling the most and need that help," Brady said.
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, threatened Monday to block a vote on overriding Trump’s veto of the defense legislation until the Senate votes on the higher relief payments.
“Let me be clear: If Senator McConnell doesn't agree to an up or down vote to provide the working people of our country a $2,000 direct payment, Congress will not be going home for New Year's Eve,” Sanders said in a statement.
The Democrat-led House passed the additional pandemic relief payments by a vote of 275-134 on Monday. Congress had previously passed $600 payments for struggling Americans as part of a $2.3 trillion pandemic aid and spending package that came after weeks of negotiations between Republican and Democratic leaders.
Trump sharply criticized the legislation, threatening to block its passage if Congress did not increase the stimulus payments to $2,000 and cut other spending. But on Sunday, as a government shutdown loomed, he signed the measure.