McConnell urges Senate to override Trump defense veto, vague on stimulus checks

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to the media after a lunch with Republican senators on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday urged the Senate to override President Donald Trump’s veto of a $740 billion defense policy bill, saying the funding plan for the U.S. military could not be allowed to fail.

The Senate convened on Tuesday for a rare year-end session to consider whether to override the veto and to weigh whether to increase direct stimulus payments for Americans reeling from the pandemic.

Hours earlier, Trump assailed leaders of his own Republican Party on Twitter, calling them “weak” and “tired” in an apparent effort to get the Senate to increase COVID-19 aid checks from $600 to $2,000 and to support his veto of the defense bill.

McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, refused to cave to Trump’s demands on the military bill.

“For the brave men and women of the United States armed forces, failure is simply not an option,” he said. “So when it’s our turn in Congress to have their backs, failure is not an option either. I would urge my colleagues to support this legislation one more time, when we vote tomorrow.”

McConnell, did however, sought to appease Trump’s other demands. While he blocked immediate consideration of a measure to increase COVID-19 relief payments to $2,000, he suggested the Senate would at least examine the issue along with two others Trump has raised – limits on big technology companies and the integrity of elections.

“This week the Senate will begin a process to bring these three priorities into focus,” he said.

With the New Year’s Day holiday on Friday and a new Congress due to be sworn into office on Sunday, lawmakers have only a short time to act.

A combined $892 billion bipartisan coronavirus relief package and $1.4 trillion spending bill that Trump signed into law on Sunday contains $600 checks for people hit hard financially by the coronavirus.

U.S. stocks dipped into negative territory after McConnell rejected Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer’s call for the Senate to approve the increased stimulus aid by unanimous consent.

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