Mitch McConnell sets date for Senate to override potential Trump veto of huge defense spending bill

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said early Tuesday he is prepared to call his chamber back to Washington early, if need be, so members can vote to override President Donald Trump’s potential veto of a massive defense spending bill.

Speaking on the floor of the Senate, the Kentucky Republican said he made a deal with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to have members return for a rare Christmas break session to “process” a veto override if the House passes one.

“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.

“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,” he added.

The Hill noted that even if McConnell convenes the Senate on Dec. 29, as he said he would, it may still take several days before an actual vote to override the veto if, in fact, President Trump rejects it.

The president has repeatedly threatened a veto of the $732 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) because it does not repeal Section 230 for the Communications Decency Act, which protects social media companies from liability. Trump has said they shouldn’t be, since by censoring some content and limiting the reach of other posts they are acting as publishers, not platforms.

Also, the president is upset that this year’s defense bill establishes a commission to look at renaming U.S. military bases that were named for Confederate figures.

“I will Veto the Defense Bill, which will make China very unhappy,” Trump tweeted last week. “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!”

House leaders announced Monday that the chamber would reconvene on Dec. 28 to vote to override the president’s expected veto. Since the House passed the defense spending bill first, it would need to override the veto first.

Trump has vetoed eight bills during his tenure, none of which were overridden.

The Hill noted that there are a number of procedural measures opponents of the override could employ to delay a final vote. They include forcing a cloture vote, which means requiring the initial effort to override to get 60 votes, the Congressional Research Service notes.

For the House to override, it will take two-thirds of members.

Some Republican senators have said that a final attempt to override could be postponed until the morning of Jan. 3, before the new Congress is sworn in.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who supports President Trump’s objections to the legislation — which includes withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan — indicated on Monday he is willing to slow down the final 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,” he said, The Hill reported.

Lawmakers will have until noon Jan. 3 to override the bill. If they don’t, then the process will have to begin anew — the first time in six decades a defense bill did not become law.

That said, the current NDAA passed both chambers with veto-proof majorities. The Hill reported that some Republican senators suggested some back-channel efforts were underway in an effort to get the president to drop his veto threat.

Trump has until Wednesday to veto it.

Jon Dougherty

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