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In final days, a weakened Trump faces first veto override

Washington – Donald Trump, after caving to pressure and signing a US$900 billion (RM3.65 trillion) coronavirus relief package, faces another potential humiliation this week with Congress poised to deliver the first veto override of his waning presidency.

A two-thirds majority of those voting is needed in the 435-member House of Representatives and 100-seat Senate to strike down Trump’s veto of the fiscal 2021 defence bill.

The US$740.5 billion National Defence Authorizstion Act was passed this month by 335 votes to 78 in the Democratic-controlled House and by 84 to 13 in the Republican-majority Senate.

But the NDAA was vetoed by the president because it did not repeal Section 230, a federal law that provides liability protection to internet companies.

Trump also opposed a provision that would strip several US military bases of the names of generals who fought for the secessionist, pro-slavery South in the 1861-65 Civil War.

The House is to vote to override Trump’s veto later today and Democrats are optimistic they have enough Republican support to do so. The Senate could take up the matter later this week.

Including the defence bill, Trump has vetoed nine bills during his four years in the White House. Congress has not previously mustered the votes to override any of his vetoes.

For a real estate tycoon who prides himself as a master negotiator, the past few days have been an exercise in humiliation.

Trump threatened for days to not sign the Covid-19 relief and spending bill that had been hammered out by his own treasury secretary and had received broad bipartisan support in Congress.

His surprise move risked shutting down the government from today and depriving millions of Americans of economic relief badly needed during the pandemic.

He finally backed down under pressure from both Democrats and Republicans, and signed the bill on Sunday at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida out of the sight of television cameras.

‘Stop the Insanity’

In an attempt to save face, Trump released a statement airing his grievances about the November 3 election and claiming that he had obtained a number of concessions.

Among Trump’s demands was increasing direct relief payments to Americans from US$600 to US$2,000, a request met enthusiastically by Democrats in the House, who will vote on the measure yesterday (today in US).

Increasing the direct payments has been met with skepticism by many members of Trump’s own Republican party, however.

President-elect Joe Biden, asked by a reporter yesterday if he favoured raising the payouts to US$2,000, replied, “Yes.”

And, speaking after a briefing by his transition teams on national security, Biden said that political appointees at the Pentagon, which Trump has packed with loyalists since the election, have refused to provide a “clear picture” on troop posture or budgeting.

“It is nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility,” Biden said in Wilmington, Delaware, warning that US adversaries could take advantage of the transition.

The strange episode over the relief package highlighted the degree to which Trump has become isolated, spending most of his time railing on Twitter about his election loss.

In a sign of his fading influence, the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post, one of Trump’s most ardent supporters, published an editorial late Sunday telling him to “Stop the Insanity” and acknowledge he lost the election.

“Mr. President, it’s time to end this dark charade,” the newspaper said. “We understand, Mr President, that you’re angry that you lost.

“But to continue down this road is ruinous,” the Post said. “If you insist on spending your final days in office threatening to burn it all down, that will be how you are remembered.

“Not as a revolutionary, but as the anarchist holding the match.”

Trump’s Twitter feed was uncharacteristically silent yesterday morning as he left Mar-a-Lago for another round of golf at the nearby Trump International Golf Club. — AFP

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