© Reuters. US President Donald Trump boarding Air Force One at Andrews Joint Base
By David Morgan and Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON (Reuters) President Donald Trump's Senate Republicans suspended his veto for the first time in nearly four years in office on Friday, and passed a defense policy law against his strong objections weeks before he left office.
The Senate met in a rare New Years session and voted 81-13 to get the two-thirds majority required to overturn the veto with the support of both parties. Eight previous vetoes were confirmed.
Friday's session, widely regarded as the last before a new Congress is sworn in on Sunday, also appeared to be a Democratic push for the time being to increase the COVID-19 aid checks requested by Trump from $ 600 to $ 2,000 . Senator Bernie Sanders rejoined Democrats to force a vote on higher payments only to be blocked by Republicans.
Republican lawmakers have largely stood by the president during his tumultuous tenure in the White House.
Since he lost his re-election bid in November, Trump has been fighting them for not fully supporting his unsupported claims of election fraud, declining his request for larger COVID-19 relief checks, and overriding his veto.
The vote in the Republican-led Senate followed a similar vote in the Democratically-controlled House of Representatives on Monday. A president has the power to veto a bill passed by Congress, but lawmakers can ratify the bill if two-thirds of both Houses vote to override the veto.
The $ 740 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) governs everything from the number of ships bought to the payment of soldiers and how to deal with geopolitical threats.
Trump refused to sign the bill because it failed to override certain legal protections for social media platforms and included a provision that removed the names of Confederate generals from military bases.
"We passed this bill for 59 years in a row. One way or another, we will complete the 60th annual NDAA and put it into law before this Congress ends on Sunday," Republican Senate chairman Mitch McConnell told The Election.
Seven Republicans, along with five Democrats and Sanders, an independent who meets with Democrats, joined the repeal.
The vote could affect two runoff elections to the US Senate in Georgia on Tuesday that will rule over control of the chamber under President-elect Joe Biden, who will take office on Jan. 20. The Senators facing a runoff election, Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, strongly backed both Trump and the military.
But neither Perdue nor Loeffler voted on Friday. Neither another staunch ally of Trump, Senator Lindsey Graham (NYSE :). Perdue went into quarantine this week after contacting someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Loeffler and Graham spokespersons did not respond to requests for comment.
Trump, who returned to Washington from his private club in Florida on Thursday, increased pressure on other Republicans and beat up the party leadership for failing to fulfill his defense and COVID-19 relief efforts and not more fully join his fight has overturned the election results.
While votes were counted, indicating Trump had lost the battle on the bill, the president took to Twitter to promote a protest rally scheduled in Washington on Wednesday.
Several Trump allies in Congress have announced that they will be raising objections on Trump's behalf, including Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley, who expects up to 140 House Republicans to join. The objections are expected to be rejected by the vast majority of legislators.
"This is my only opportunity in the process to stand and be heard," Hawley told reporters on Friday. "And to speak on behalf of my constituents."
But Hawley admitted that he is still undecided how many state election results will be the target of his objections: "I didn't work out the mechanisms, right."
Republican Senator Ben Sasse broke the move in an attempt by ambitious politicians to tap Trump's populist base, saying in a statement on Facebook (NASDAQ 🙂 on Wednesday: "Adults do not point a loaded gun at the heart of legitimate self-government."
Later on Friday, Trump tweeted about the Senate's refusal to take up his call for more COVID-19 relief supplies and lift legal protections for social media platforms.
"Our Republican Senate just missed the opportunity to get rid of Section 230, which gives big tech companies unlimited power. Pathetic !!! Now they want to give the people ravaged by the China virus $ 600 instead of the $ 2,000 they desperately need Don't need to be fair or wise! "he wrote.
By the time he was suspended, with less than three weeks in office, Trump was on track to be the first president since Lyndon Johnson without vetoes being overridden, according to the American presidential project at the University of California at Santa Barbara.