Congress overrides Trump's veto for the first time on major military bill

Sahil Kapur and Dareh Gregorian and Frank Thorp V

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Friday joined the House to override President Donald Trump’s veto of a sweeping military policy bill, delivering the first such blow to Trump just weeks before he leaves office.

The Senate then adjourned later in the day Friday, effectively killing the effort to increase stimulus check payments to $2,000, a demand Trump had made after signing a coronavirus relief bill that included $600 payments.

The Senate voted 81-13 to approve the $741 billion National Defense Authorization Act, achieving the two-thirds majority required to defeat the veto. The House overrode the veto on Monday by a vote of 322-87. As a result, the legislation will become law.

Trump vetoed the measure on Dec. 23 after lawmakers refused to include his request to add a provision repealing an internet liability law known as Section 230 that protects social media companies. The previous eight vetoes issued by Trump had been allowed to stand.

Among the lawmakers who voted against the override were Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Josh Hawley of Missouri and Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Ron Wyden of Oregon. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., was a "no" vote as well.

Kamala Harris, the vice president-elect and Democratic senator from California, voted in favor of the override.

Republicans Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who'd dodged questions about how they'd vote on the issue, were not present. Perdue is quarantining after a member of his campaign team tested positive for the coronavirus, and Loeffler was campaigning in Georgia ahead of next week's runoff election, which will determine party control of the Senate.

Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat from Alabama who's being considered as President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for attorney general, also missed the vote. He's been quarantining since his wife tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this week.

Trump criticized "Our Republican Senate" on Twitter after the vote, calling its refusal to add a Section 230 provision "Pathetic!!!"

The vote came after attempts by Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Sanders and Hawley to force a vote on Trump's call for $2,000 checks to Americans were rejected. In his tweet, Trump called Republicans' failure to approve the checks "Not fair, or smart!"

The NDAA is typically a bipartisan exercise that passes Congress with little drama. This year was different due to Trump's demand, which leaders of his party dismissed as irrelevant to a bill that structures the Pentagon. Both chambers originally passed the legislation with sweeping bipartisan support.

The process of overriding the veto took days in the Senate after Sanders led an objection to a speedy vote unless Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would allow a vote on the CASH Act to raise stimulus payments to $2,000.

McConnell refused, choosing to wait him out instead.

Schumer, the minority leader, attempted to pass the House bill raising the stimulus payments by unanimous consent on Friday, but Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., objected. Sanders and Hawley tried again later in the day, offering to also vote on an alternate version offered by McConnell that combined the $2,000 checks with Section 230 reform and legislation to review the 2020 election, but that was blocked as well.

Trump, who'd repeatedly called for increasing the payments to $2,000, had been largely silent on the issue as Democrats and Hawley tried to get the measure passed this week.

Shortly after Thune objected, Trump tweeted that Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem should run against Thune in a primary.

"She would do a fantastic job in the U.S. Senate, but if not Kristi, others are already lining up. South Dakota wants strong leadership, NOW!" Trump wrote.

It's unclear if Trump attacked Thune because of the objection. Trump also mocked Thune, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, in a tweet last week after the senator predicted any Republican objection to the Electoral College vote count on Jan. 6 would "go down like a shot dog."

About a half-hour after his Thune tweet on Friday, Trump tweeted another call for supporters to show up to rally for him on the Jan. 6 in Washington, D.C.

Thune made light of the Trump jibes to reporters after the vote. "Well, finally an attack tweet! What took him so long? It’s fine — that’s the way he communicates," Thune said, adding, "I’m not sure what I did to be deserving of all that, but that's fine."

The military legislation affirms a 3 percent pay raise for American troops and includes a provision led by Warren to rename U.S. military bases and property honoring Confederate soldiers within three years.

The last president to never have a veto overridden by Congress was Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s, according to Senate archives.