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McConnell announces support for veto override as Trump’s grip on GOP slips

Chris Sommerfeldt
New York Daily News

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed Tuesday to override President Donald Trump’s veto of this year’s defense bill, dealing an embarrassing blow to the outgoing commander in chief that suggests his firm grip on the Republican Party is loosening.

McConnell, the top Republican in Congress, said in a floor speech Tuesday that he’s teeing up a Wednesday vote in the Senate on a House-approved resolution to rescind Trump’s veto of the $741 billion military spending bill. If successful, it will mark the first congressional veto override of Trump’s presidency.

“I would urge my colleagues to support this legislation one more time when we vote tomorrow,” McConnell said.

The National Defense Authorization Act “will cement our advantage on the seas, on land, in the air, in cyberspace and in space,” McConnell said. The bill also provides a 3% pay raise for U.S. troops, as well as funding for military construction projects, improvements for military housing, child care and more, McConnell said.

“For the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces, failure is not an option. So when it is our turn in Congress to have their backs, failure is not an option here either,” he said.

Trump, who’s furious with McConnell and other GOP leaders for not doing more to help him subvert Joe Biden’s election, vetoed the NDAA on Dec. 23 because Republicans rejected his demand for the bill to include a provision to repeal liability protections for social media companies such as Twitter. Trump says the social media companies were biased against him during his failed reelection campaign.

The president was also upset that Republicans allowed the NDAA to include an amendment mandating the renaming of U.S. military bases named for Confederate leaders.

Not everyone wins: In his floor remarks, McConnell said there are always provisions requested by both parties that do not make it into the NDAA.

“And yet for 59 consecutive years and counting, Washington has put our differences aside, found common ground and passed the annual defense bill,” he said. “Not once in six decades has a Congress let its differences prevent it from completing this work for its national security and our men and women who wear the uniform.”

Trump, who’s spending the holidays tweeting and golfing at his private club in Florida, lashed out at McConnell before he announced support for the override.

“Weak and tired Republican ‘leadership’ will allow the bad Defense Bill to pass,” Trump tweeted. “A disgraceful act of cowardice and total submission by weak people to Big Tech. Negotiate a better Bill, or get better leaders, NOW! Senate should not approve NDAA until fixed!!!”

Trump’s push for repealing the so-called Section 230 social media protections is unrelated to the military, and many Republicans questioned the logic of using the NDAA as a vehicle for that crusade.

Two-thirds of the Senate need to support the override resolution to squash Trump’s veto. With McConnell’s blessing, that appears a near-certainty.

Delay possible: There is, however, one other snag that could delay the override.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and some progressive Democrats in the upper chamber are threatening to block fast-track passage of the override resolution until McConnell allows a vote on a House-approved measure to increase the forthcoming coronavirus stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000.

Sanders could hold up the override resolution until Jan. 1, which he suggested he will do unless McConnell clears the way for a vote on the stimulus check measure.

“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. “Let’s do our job.”