The Senate inched toward a potential override of President Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act Wednesday, voting in favor of a motion to take up the issue despite his stiff opposition to the military spending bill.
The motion passed, 80-12. Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R- Ky., filed cloture immediately after the vote. A final Senate vote on whether to override Trump’s veto is expected by Saturday before Congress adjourns its current session.
The $740 billion military spending bill passed both the House and Senate by a significant majority. But in a surprise move, Trump vetoed the NDAA on Dec. 23.
The president warned that he would not approve the bill unless it contained language to repeal Section 230, the measure that protects social media platforms from being liable for third-party posts. Trump and other prominent GOP figures have accused platforms such as Facebook and Twitter of censoring conservative viewpoints.
Trump also opposed a provision in the NDAA that calls for the renaming of military bases bearing the names of Confederate leaders.
Despite the president’s opposition, McConnell called on members of both parties to support the approval of the NDAA. He argued the bill is vital to U.S. defense interests and noted that it includes 3% pay raises for members of the military.
"For the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces, failure is not an option. So when it is our turn in Congress to have their backs, failure is not an option here either,″ McConnell said on Tuesday.
The Senate took up the motion one day after the House overwhelmingly voted to override the veto. The move drew a sharp rebuke from President Trump, who ripped "weak and tired" House GOP lawmakers for supporting the override.
"A disgraceful act of cowardice and total submission by weak people to Big Tech," Trump tweeted. "Negotiate a better Bill, or get better leaders, NOW! Senate should not approve NDAA until fixed!!!"
The Senate held the procedural vote amid opposition from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who pushed Republican leaders to approve increased direct payments to Americans contending with coronavirus. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle called for $2,000 checks, up from the $600 checks already approved in the latest aid package.
Earlier Wednesday, McConnell said there was "no realistic path" for the Senate to quickly approve the larger payments.