President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans in the U.S. Senate on Friday overrode his veto for the first time in his nearly four years in office, pushing through a bill on defense spending against his strong objections 20 days before he leaves office.
Meeting in a rare New Year’s Day session, the Senate secured the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto with bipartisan support two days before a new Congress will be sworn in on Sunday. Eight previous vetoes have been upheld.
Republican lawmakers have largely stood by the president during his turbulent White House term.
Since losing his re-election bid in November, however, Trump has lashed out at them for not fully backing his unsupported claims of voting fraud, rejecting his demand for bigger COVID-19 relief checks and for moving toward the veto override.
The Republican-led Senate, following the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives on Monday, passed the measure without his support, voting 81-13.
A U.S. president has the power to veto a bill passed by Congress, but lawmakers can uphold the bill if two-thirds of both the House of Representatives and Senate vote to override it.
The $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) determines everything from how many ships are bought to soldiers’ pay and how to address geopolitical threats, but Trump refused to sign it into law because it did not repeal certain legal protections for social media platforms and did include a provision stripping the names of Confederate generals from military bases.
“We’ve passed this legislation 59 years in a row. And one way or another, we’re going to complete the 60th annual NDAA and pass it into law before this Congress concludes on Sunday,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said.
Trump, who returned to Washington on Thursday from his private club in Florida, has ramped up pressure on fellow Republicans and slammed party leadership for failing to do his bidding on the two measures and for not more fully joining his fight to overturn the election results.
As votes were being counted indicating Trump had lost the battle over the bill, the president took to Twitter to tout a protest rally being planned in Washington on Wednesday, the day the new Congress officially tallies the Electoral College votes certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential victory.
Some Trump allies in Congress have said they plan to object on Trump’s behalf.