Senate poised to override Trump's defense bill veto

The Senate appears poised to override President TrumpDonald TrumpProsecutors focus Trump Organization probe on company's financial officer: report WHO official says it's 'premature' to think pandemic will be over by end of year Romney released from hospital after fall over the weekend MORE’s veto of a defense policy bill, handing the president a stinging rebuke in the final days of his administration.

The issue is likely to come to a head either on New Year’s Day or the following day in a rare Saturday vote, with a group of lawmakers threatening to drag out the veto fight as they try to leverage the $740 billion defense measure into getting a vote on the House-passed stimulus checks bill.

But Republicans are making clear they expect to have the two-thirds majority votes needed to nix Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), marking the first time in four years that Congress has been able to successfully override Trump.


“Soon this important legislation will be passed into law. ... 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. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation one more time,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellJudiciary Committee greenlights Garland's AG nomination This week: Senate takes up coronavirus relief after minimum wage setback Juan Williams: Hypocrisy runs riot in GOP MORE (R-Ky.) said from the Senate floor on Tuesday.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynBottom line This week: Senate takes up coronavirus relief after minimum wage setback Senate mulls changes to .9 trillion coronavirus bill MORE (R-Texas), an adviser to McConnell, added that he would vote to override Trump’s veto later this week.

“We know the president has the constitutional authority to veto any bill for virtually any reason, and he has exercised that power with this legislation. The reasons the president has given I don’t think are frivolous at all. They just shouldn’t be tagged to this particular piece of legislation,” Cornyn said.

Trump vetoed the NDAA on Dec. 23 after warning for weeks that he would not support the legislation because it does not repeal what’s known as Section 230 — a provision from a 1996 law providing a legal shield for tech companies that has emerged as a fixation for the president — and requires Confederate-named bases and military installations be renamed.

The bill also sparked Trump’s ire because it puts limits on his ability to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and Germany, two decisions that divide the president and congressional Republicans.


The veto fight is the latest foreign policy battle between the two ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Congress previously passed Russia sanctions in 2017 over his objection, supported language in 2019 to try to warn him off drawing back in Syria and publicly lamented the loss of former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisRejoining the Iran nuclear deal would save lives of US troops, diplomats The soft but unmatched power of US foreign exchange programs The GOP senators likely to vote for Trump's conviction MORE, who aligns more with their worldview than Trump.

Senate Republicans also back-channeled with the White House earlier this month, warning Trump about the defense bill’s broad support on Capitol Hill as they tried to talk him out of vetoing it. McConnell, in a middle of the night speech a day before Trump’s veto, said, “I hope the president will not veto this bill,” but warned publicly that if he did, the Senate was prepared to return for a rare post-Christmas session to deal with it.

Trump appeared to acknowledge his likely defeat when he lashed out at Republican leadership on Tuesday in a tweet — one of several fronts where he’s battling with congressional Republicans.

“Weak and tired Republican ‘leadership’ will allow the bad Defense Bill to pass. ... Negotiate a better Bill, or get better leaders, NOW! Senate should not approve NDAA until fixed!!!" Trump tweeted.

But Congress appears poised to ignore him.


The House vote on Monday was the first time either chamber has been able to successfully override a Trump veto, with 109 GOP lawmakers breaking with the president to support the bill.

House Armed Services Committee ranking member Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryUnnamed law enforcement banned under the new NDAA Lobbying world Senate poised to override Trump's defense bill veto MORE (R-Texas) urged Republicans to ignore the political fight as they weighed whether to override Trump’s veto.

“I would only ask that as members vote, they put the best interests of the country first. ... There is no other consideration that should matter,” Thornberry said.

Trump faces an uphill climb to prevent a veto override. The Senate passed the NDAA in an 84-13 vote earlier this month. Some of the six Democratic senators who voted against the bill said they will flip and support overriding Trump.

On the GOP side, Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamJuan Williams: Hypocrisy runs riot in GOP Portman on Trump's dominance of GOP: Republican Party's policies are 'even more popular' Overnight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission MORE (S.C.) is the only Republican who voted for the defense bill earlier this month to say they will not support overriding the veto.

The veto showdown will also put GOP Sens. Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerKelly Loeffler's WNBA team sold after players' criticism Please, President Trump: Drop your quest for revenge and help the GOP The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Finger-pointing on Capitol riot; GOP balks at Biden relief plan MORE (Ga.) and David PerdueDavid PerduePlease, President Trump: Drop your quest for revenge and help the GOP The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Finger-pointing on Capitol riot; GOP balks at Biden relief plan Georgia's GOP-led Senate passes bill requiring ID for absentee voting MORE (Ga.) in a political bind. The two senators are just days away from runoff elections that will determine which party controls the Senate for the next two years. They’ve stuck close to Trump, including coming out in support of his push to increase the amount of direct stimulus payments from $600 to $2,000, as they’ve tried to drive high turnout amongst his supporters.

But several other Republicans — including members of leadership like Sens. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneGOP says Ron Klain pulling Biden strings Rick Scott acknowledges Biden 'absolutely' won fair election After vote against aid package, Golden calls for more bipartisanship MORE (S.D.) and Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntPartisan headwinds threaten Capitol riot commission Passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Microsoft, FireEye push for breach reporting rules after SolarWinds hack MORE (Mo.), the No. 2 and No. 4 Republican senators respectively — are poised to vote to override Trump’s veto. Others, including Sens. Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Finger-pointing on Capitol riot; GOP balks at Biden relief plan Sanders votes against Biden USDA nominee Vilsack Senate confirms Vilsack as Agriculture secretary MORE (Alaska), Mike RoundsMike RoundsIndigenous groups post billboards urging senators to confirm Deb Haaland Powell pushes back on GOP inflation fears Overnight Health Care: US surpasses half a million COVID deaths | House panel advances Biden's .9T COVID-19 aid bill | Johnson & Johnson ready to provide doses for 20M Americans by end of March MORE (S.D.), John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanPassage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy On The Trail: Trump threatens a Tea Party redux Managers seek to make GOP think twice about Trump acquittal MORE (Ark.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate Democrats negotiating changes to coronavirus bill On The Money: Senators push for changes as chamber nears vote on .9T relief bill | Warren offers bill to create wealth tax GOP says Ron Klain pulling Biden strings MORE (Maine), are also expected to support overriding the veto.

“The NDAA represents one of Congress’ most important responsibilities. For the past 59 consecutive years, Congress has come together in a bipartisan manner to craft this annual legislation,” Collins said in a statement.

Including the defense bill, Trump has issued nine vetoes during his White House tenure. Before the defense fight, neither chamber was able to override a veto. The closest the Senate has come was during two 2019 override efforts — one related to U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen and the second related to the border wall — which both garnered 53 votes.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeBiden seeks to walk fine line with Syria strike Senators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Overnight Defense: New Senate Armed Services chairman talks Pentagon policy nominee, Afghanistan, more | Biden reads report on Khashoggi killing | Austin stresses vaccine safety in new video MORE (R-Okla.) said he was “disappointed” in Trump’s veto. But he stressed that the veto override was about the bill’s importance, not a reflection of Trump, whose accomplishments he read off in a list at the tail end of a floor speech.

“I’m here today because we have to pass the NDAA. ... It’s necessary to have. It’s the most important bill of the year,” he said. “The NDAA is so significant right now. ... That’s what this vote is all about.”