Republicans waiting to see what Trump does on relief package
Senate Republicans are waiting to hear from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) about what they’ll do if President Trump vetoes a massive coronavirus relief and omnibus spending package, which could set the stage for a government shutdown.
Two Republican aides on Wednesday said McConnell has yet to offer any guidance to the Senate Republican Conference on whether there will be an attempt to override Trump’s veto of the coronavirus relief and year-end funding bill, which leaders from both parties hailed as a major accomplishment this week.
As thing now stand, McConnell has informed senators to be prepared to vote as soon as Dec. 29 on an override of Trump’s expected veto of the annual defense authorization bill.
It’s possible senators could also begin the process to override a veto of the coronavirus relief and omnibus spending bill but that remains to be determined.
Senate sources say that Trump could ensure the demise of the 5,593-page coronavirus relief and spending package by simply refusing to act on it before the new 117th Congress convenes on Jan. 3.
The Constitution gives the president 10 days — not counting Sundays — to act on legislation or it automatically becomes law. If Congress adjourns “sine die” and Trump doesn’t act before that 10-day period expires, then the coronavirus bill would fail on a “pocket veto.”
Trump is not due to receive the huge relief and omnibus spending package until Thursday or Friday because it takes time to enroll the voluminous bill.
If the new 117th Congress convenes and Trump hasn’t yet signed the coronavirus relief package, which includes a new round of $600 stimulus checks, the legislation would die and Congress would need to pass a new bill in January.
If that happens, Congress would need to still pass another stopgap funding measure to prevent a government shutdown after the current stopgap expires at the end of the night on Dec. 28.
The Senate is scheduled to convene for a pro forma session on that day and leaders could pass another short-term funding bill by unanimous consent at that time — assuming no lawmakers object.
Senators have been told that the Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, Dec. 29, for a period of morning business and that roll-call votes are possible later in the day, in case they need to override Trump’s veto of the defense bill.
Senate GOP aides say their bosses received an email on Tuesday alerting them of the possibility.
McConnell also announced the schedule on the Senate floor in the wee hours Tuesday morning, after the Senate passed the coronavirus relief package.
The GOP leader explained the reason to return to work on Tuesday would be to override Trump’s veto of the defense bill, if necessary.
“In the event that President Trump does elect to veto this bipartisan bill, it appears the House may choose to return after the holidays to set up a vote to consider the veto. … In the event that the president has vetoed the bill, and the House has voted to override the veto, the Senate would have the opportunity to process a veto override at that time,” McConnell said on the floor early Tuesday morning.
Senate President Pro Tempore Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Wednesday suggested the Senate could vote to override Trump’s vetoes of the defense bill and the coronavirus and omnibus spending package after it returns Tuesday.
Grassley told reporters on a phone call Wednesday that he had been notified of the possibility of going into session to override a veto to keep the government from shutting down.
A spokesman for Grassley later clarified that senators have been notified about returning to work for a potential override of a veto of the defense bill and that the time back in Washington could also be used to address the coronavirus relief package.
Senate action would depend on the House voting first to override potential Trump vetoes of the defense and coronavirus relief bills. If Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) cannot muster the two-thirds vote needed to override Trump on either bill, then the Senate would not act.
If Trump sits on the coronavirus relief and omnibus spending package for 10 days, then neither chamber will be able to act on that bill before the new 117th Congress convenes.