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McConnell: Senate to return Dec. 29 for potential Trump veto override vote

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump selects South Carolina lawyer for impeachment trial McConnell proposes postponing impeachment trial until February For Biden, a Senate trial could aid bipartisanship around COVID relief MORE (R-Ky.) announced early Tuesday morning that the Senate will return to Washington on Dec. 29 to respond to a potential veto from President TrumpDonald TrumpIran's leader vows 'revenge,' posting an image resembling Trump Former Sanders spokesperson: Biden 'backing away' from 'populist offerings' Justice Dept. to probe sudden departure of US attorney in Atlanta after Trump criticism MORE of a mammoth defense bill. 

McConnell, speaking from the Senate floor, said that he had struck a deal with Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerNRSC chair says he'll back GOP incumbents against Trump primary challengers Schumer becomes new Senate majority leader US Chamber of Commerce to Biden, Congress: Business community 'ready to help' MORE (D-N.Y.) for the chamber to return for a rare post-Christmas session during which he said they will "process" a veto override, if it's passed by the House. 

"My intention was and is to ensure the Senate continues fulfilling our obligation to the men and women of our armed forces. I hope the president will not veto this bill," McConnell said from the Senate floor. 

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"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 added.

Even if the Senate returns on Dec. 29, it could still be days before a final vote takes place on whether to override a potential veto from Trump of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). 

The agreement from the Senate comes after the House decided on Monday that it would return to Washington on Dec. 28 for a veto override vote. Trump has issued eight vetoes during his tenure, none of which have been successfully overridden. 

Because the House passed the defense bill first initially, it also has to vote on the override attempt first. A Democratic House aide previously told The Hill that in order to overcome any procedural hurdles in the Senate, members would need to vote to send the veto message across the Capitol by Dec. 29. If the House fails to override the veto, the effort is automatically quashed on Capitol Hill. 

Senate leaders are likely to face procedural hurdles to getting to a final vote on whether to override Trump's veto. 

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Opponents of overriding the president’s veto could drag out procedural hurdles by forcing a cloture vote, requiring the override effort to initially get 60 votes, according to the Congressional Research Service. To ultimately override in the Senate, as in the House, will require two-thirds support. 

GOP senators have previously suggested that a final vote could wait until the morning of Jan. 3, before the new Congress is sworn in. Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneNRSC chair says he'll back GOP incumbents against Trump primary challengers Biden steps into debt fight on Capitol Hill McConnell faces conservative backlash over Trump criticism MORE (R-S.D.), McConnell's No. 2, warned on Monday night that it could take a "few days" for the Senate to go through all of the legislative hoops.

"It will take more than one day if we have objections and I think we probably will. So the question is, if the House, if they override it, then ... we'll have to set it up, and it may take a few days to do that," Thune said. 

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden takes office, calls for end to 'uncivil war' Senate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official McConnell faces conservative backlash over Trump criticism MORE (R-Ky.), who has aligned closely with Trump and tried to slow-walk the defense bill earlier this month, indicated Monday he could similarly delay an override vote.

“I very much am opposed to the Afghan war, and I’ve told them I’ll come back to try to prevent them from easily overriding the president’s veto,” Paul told reporters.

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Congress has until noon on Jan. 3 to override the veto. If Congress fails to override the veto by then, lawmakers would need to start from scratch on the bill, and it would be the first time in 60 years the bill does not become law.

The defense bill passed both chambers with veto-proof majorities and top GOP senators had indicated that there was backchanneling underway to try to get Trump to back down from his veto threat. He has until Wednesday to veto the bill. 

Trump has doubled down on his threat several times, reiterating his complaints that it would not repeal a tech liability shield and would rename military bases honoring Confederates. The president also added an unspecified gripe that the NDAA is weak on China.

“I will Veto the Defense Bill, which will make China very unhappy,” Trump tweeted last Thursday. “They love it. Must have Section 230 termination, protect our National Monuments and allow for removal of military from far away, and very unappreciative, lands. Thank you!”