U.S. Congress inches nearer to Trump veto override as Republican tensions develop

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell leaves the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington

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By Susan Cornwell and David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate was due on Wednesday to hold a procedural vote that could pave the way for Congress to override President Donald Trump’s veto of a key defense bill, as tension between the outgoing Republican president and party leaders grows.

Trump on Tuesday ramped-up pressure on his fellow Republicans to support his decision to veto the bill because it does not repeal certain legal protections for tech giants, and to back $2,000 one-time stimulus checks for struggling Americans.

The president attacked Republican leaders on Twitter as “pathetic,” and warned that the party had a “death wish” if it did not back the bigger payments. He also called again for scrapping social media company legal protections.

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

The House of Representatives overturned his veto on Monday, and the Senate is expected to hold a procedural vote on Wednesday evening. Final 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 a provision scrapping the social media company protections and another to study election security, a major issue for Trump who has claimed 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 all three.

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.

The cracks in Trump’s relationship with Republican party leaders come as the Senate wraps up its last working days of the year, and three weeks before Trump hands power to Democratic President-elect Joe Biden.

Biden, who is spending the holiday in his home state of Delaware, was due on Wednesday to meet his transition advisers while Trump, who is spending the holiday at his Florida beach resort, had no scheduled events.

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