The US Capitol Hill building last night. PA Images
defence bill

'A resounding rebuke': US Congress votes overwhelmingly in favour of overriding Trump veto

The US President called the move ‘pathetic’.

THE US CONGRESS has dealt Donald Trump a humiliating blow in his last days in office with the Senate voting overwhelmingly to override his veto of a sweeping defence bill — the first time lawmakers have done so during his presidency.

By a lopsided vote of 81-13, well more than the two-thirds of the 100-member chamber required, the Republican-controlled Senate approved the $740.5 billion (€608.1b) National Defence Authorisation Act to fund the military for fiscal year 2021.

The Democratic-led House of Representatives had voted 322 to 87 on Monday to override Trump’s veto.

Both houses of Congress had easily passed the legislation in early December by strong majorities, but Trump, citing a litany of objections, vetoed it on 23 December.

“It’s time for us to deliver this bill,” Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said at the start of Friday’s session.

mitch-mcconnell-arrives-at-the-capitol-washington Mitch McConnell PA Images PA Images

The vote completed a stunning rebuke in the waning weeks of Trump’s presidency.

It came in an extraordinary New Year’s Day session necessitated by his veto, possibly the final act of the outgoing Congress.

New members will be sworn in on Sunday, just 17 days before Democrat Joe Biden is inaugurated to succeed Trump.

Trump’s complaints

Breaking with members of his party, Trump had criticized the defence bill on numerous grounds.

He called it a “gift” to China and Russia and said it restricted his ability to lower troop numbers in Afghanistan, South Korea and elsewhere.

Trump had bristled at language to rename military installations that currently honour leaders of the breakaway Civil War-era, pro-slavery Confederacy.

He also insisted the bill should include a repeal of a federal law, known as Section 230, that provides liability protection to internet companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google, which he regularly accuses of anti-conservative bias.

“Our Republican Senate just missed the opportunity to get rid of Section 230, which gives unlimited power to Big Tech companies,” Trump tweeted after the vote. “Pathetic!!!”

trump-returns-white-house-cutting-short-his-vacation Trump pictured on Thursday. PA Images PA Images

Referring to the Senate’s refusal to vote first on a motion to increase pandemic aid checks, he added, “Now they want to give people ravaged by the China Virus $600 (€492), rather than the $2,000 (€1,642) which they so desperately need,” using a term he applies to the coronavirus that has been widely decried as racist and fanning conspiracy theories.

But members of the president’s own Republican Party – which traditionally prides itself as strong on defence – underscored the importance of the bill.

“It’s absolutely vital to our national security and our troops,” said Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

Democrats in both chambers had slammed Trump’s veto.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hailed the “resounding rebuke” that both houses of Congress delivered by overwhelmingly overriding Trump’s veto.

Instead of keeping Americans safe, the President continues to use his final moments in office to sow chaos and undermine our security.

© – AFP, 2021

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