U.S. Congress Inches Closer To Trump Veto Override As Republican Tensions Grow

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Senate could pave the way for Congress to override President Donald Trump’s veto of a defense spending bill with a procedural vote on Wednesday, further raising tensions between the outgoing Republican president and party leaders.

Trump has ramped up pressure on fellow Republicans to support his veto because it does not repeal certain unrelated legal protections for tech giants and to back $2,000 onetime COVID-19 stimulus checks for struggling Americans.

“$2000 ASAP!” Trump tweeted early on Wednesday.

On Tuesday the president attacked Republican leaders as “pathetic” and accused the party of having a “death wish” if it did not back raising the payments from $600 to $2,000 and scrap the legal protections for social media companies.

The cracks in Trump’s relationship with Republican Party leaders come three weeks before Trump hands power to Democrat Joe Biden on Jan. 20.

Congressional Republicans have largely stuck with Trump through four turbulent years, but the president is angry that they have not fully backed his claims of election fraud.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the leading Republican in Congress, on Tuesday blocked a quick vote on the checks and urged lawmakers to override Trump’s veto of the defense bill. If successful, the veto override would be the first such congressional rebuke of Trump.

The House of Representatives overturned Trump’s veto on Monday, and the Senate is expected to hold a procedural vote on Wednesday evening. Final Senate passage of the override could come later in the week or over the weekend.

Late on Tuesday, McConnell introduced a bill that combined the $2,000 checks with provisions scrapping the social media company protections and calling for a study of election security, a major issue for Trump, who claims without evidence that fraud robbed him of victory in the November election.

Since most Democrats do not support the second two measures, the maneuver looks set to kill off prospects for all three. The Senate has little time to act, with the new Congress, elected in November, set to be seated on Sunday.

Democrat Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the Democratic-led House of Representatives, accused McConnell of obstruction and urged him to bring the issue of the $2,000 checks to a vote as soon as possible.

“This $2,000 will go a long way, not only to sustain the financial security of America’s working families but will help small business to thrive as well,” she told a news briefing.

“It’s amazing to see the patience that some people have with other people suffering. These Republicans in the Senate seem to have an endless tolerance for other people’s sadness.”

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he was confident a stand-alone checks bill that the House passed on Monday would pass the Senate - if McConnell allowed it to come to the floor.

“I believe it will get to 60 votes,” Schumer told reporters, adding that he had “some real hope” that a floor vote would occur given the number of Senate Republicans who back higher payments.

Barring an agreement between lawmakers, the support of 60 senators would be necessary under the chamber’s rules to move the measure to a final vote on passage.

A growing number of Republican senators support the payments, including David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who are running in next week’s Georgia runoff elections that will determine which party controls the Senate under Biden’s incoming administration.

Any attempt by the Senate to deviate from Monday’s stand-alone payment measure would require the House to pass new legislation, an unlikely scenario given Democratic opposition and the tight timeline.

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