Washington, Jan 1 (efe-epa).- The Republican-controlled US Senate voted overwhelmingly Friday to override outgoing President Donald Trump’s veto of the $741 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The House of Representatives, where Democrats are in the majority, overrode the veto on Monday, so the path is now clear for the bill to become law.
Though not unexpected, this is the first time Congress has overridden a presidential veto since the real estate mogul took office in January 2017.
Congress typically passes the NDAA by huge margins and the current legislation was no exception, as Trump’s threat to veto the legislation unless changes were made did not dissuade most of his fellow Republicans from supporting it.
The vote in the Senate to move the legislation forward in spite of the president’s objections was 81-13, well in excess of the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was among the senior Republicans who voted to override.
Those voting “no” included Trump loyalists Ted Cruz of Texas and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, as well as Democrat Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Vermont independent Bernie Sanders, who had sought to hold up the NDAA to force McConnell into allowing a vote on increasing pandemic relief payments to individuals from $600 to $2,000.
Trump, in becoming the first president in 59 years to veto funding for the military, said that his rejection stemmed from lawmakers’ failure to include in the NDAA a provision striking down an unrelated law – Section 230 – that gives immunity to internet firms for content posted on their platforms by third parties.
The president also denounced language in the NDAA requiring the Armed Forces to rename bases bearing the names of leaders of the Confederacy during the 1861-1865 Civil War, the bloodiest conflict in US history.
Trump took to Twitter on Friday to denounce the Senate for overriding his veto.
“Our Republican Senate just missed the opportunity to get rid of Section 230, which gives unlimited power to Big Tech companies. Pathetic!!! Now they want to give people ravaged by the China Virus $600, rather than the $2000 which they so desperately need. Not fair, or smart!,” he wrote.
Trump has been railing at McConnell since the middle of December, when the Kentucky senator congratulated Democrat Joe Biden for winning the Nov. 3 election and referred to him as president-elect.
The incumbent continues to claim without evidence that he was robbed of victory in November.
On Dec. 21, both houses of Congress passed a $900 billion bill to address the economic damage done by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has claimed 346,000 lives in the US.
The package was the fruit of months of on-again, off-again negotiations among Democratic and Republican congressional leaders and the White House.
But less than 24 hours after Congress passed the bill, Trump blasted the bill’s $600 direct payments to Americans as “ridiculously low,” demanding $2,000 per individual and $4,000 for a couple.
Democrats embraced Trump’s proposal and the House approved on Monday a stand-alone bill increasing the payments.
McConnell, however, blocked a vote on the bill in the Senate, opting instead to submit legislation linking the higher payments to repeal of Section 230 and to the launch of an investigation into Trump’s unfounded allegations of “voter fraud” – provisions he knew Democrats would reject.
In a speech on the Senate floor Thursday, McConnell blasted as “socialism for rich people” the proposal for $2,000 direct payments of $2,000 to individuals making up to $75,000 a year and to couples with a combined income of $150,000 or less.
Responding to the majority leader, Sanders said that socialism for the wealthy was what the Senate did “every single day.”