Biden Transition Live Updates: House Set to Vote on Overriding Trump’s Military Bill Veto

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“Your decision should be based upon the oath we all took, which was to the Constitution rather than any person or organization,” Representative Mac Thornberry of Texas has urged his fellow Republicans. 
Credit…Pool photo by Greg Nash

The House on Monday evening will vote on overriding President Trump’s veto of the annual military spending bill, setting up a path for lawmakers to deliver the first veto override of Mr. Trump’s presidency in his final days in office.

Mr. Trump vetoed the bipartisan legislation on Wednesday, making good on a monthslong series of threats, citing a shifting list of reasons including his objection to its directing the military to strip the names of Confederate leaders from bases. He has also demanded that the bill include the repeal of a legal shield for social media companies that he has tangled with, a significant legislative change that Republicans and Democrats alike have said is irrelevant to a bill that dictates military policy.

But the legislation, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes raises for American troops, has longstanding, broad bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, with lawmakers eager to use the bill as an opportunity to demonstrate support for the military and national security and secure wins in their own communities. Congress has successfully passed the legislation for 60 consecutive years, and this year’s measure passed the House and the Senate by margins surpassing the two-thirds majority necessary in both chambers to force enactment of the bill over Mr. Trump’s veto.

Mr. Trump’s objections to the legislation have left some Republicans, who are typically loath to challenge the president, poised to vote to override his veto. Representative Mac Thornberry of Texas, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, the panel responsible for the legislation, urged his colleagues not to let politics dictate their vote.

“Your decision should be based upon the oath we all took, which was to the Constitution rather than any person or organization,” Mr. Thornberry wrote.

Still, in an indication of the party’s fealty to Mr. Trump, the top two Republicans in the House, Representatives Kevin McCarthy of California and Steve Scalise of Louisiana, have said they will vote to sustain the president’s veto. It is unclear how many lawmakers will join them. Only 40 Republicans voted against the bill earlier this month. The chamber passed it 335 to 78, meaning the House could still vote to override the veto even if a few dozen Republicans switched their votes.

The House is also set to vote Monday evening to increase the size of individual stimulus checks to $2,000 from $600, another measure that will force many Republicans to choose between loyalty to Mr. Trump, who has demanded the increase, and their own previous positions.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in Wilmington, Del., last week.
Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be briefed on Monday by national security experts who are helping with their transition as they prepare to assume power in just over three weeks and confront a sprawling array of challenges on the global stage.

Afterward, Mr. Biden is slated to give brief remarks in Wilmington, Del.

Last week, Mr. Biden harshly criticized President Trump for downplaying a far-reaching Russian cyberattack on federal agencies and private companies. Later Monday, the House is set to vote on overriding Mr. Trump’s veto of the annual military policy bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act.

The House vote could lead to the first veto override of Mr. Trump’s presidency, dealing him a bipartisan rebuke in his final days in office.

In his presidential campaign, Mr. Biden emphasized his relationships with world leaders and promised to rebuild alliances and restore America’s standing in the world. He has already named most of his top foreign policy and national security officials, though he has yet to announce his choice to lead the C.I.A.

Mr. Biden’s transition was hamstrung at the outset by the Trump administration’s delay in formally designating him as the apparent winner of the election.

And before Christmas, Yohannes Abraham, the executive director of the Biden transition, said that the president-elect’s team had encountered “isolated resistance in some corners, including from political appointees within the Department of Defense.” He expressed concern about what he described as “an abrupt halt in the already limited cooperation there.”

The acting defense secretary, Christopher C. Miller, had cited a “mutually agreed-upon holiday pause,” but Mr. Abraham said that no such agreement had been made.

The signing was a sudden reversal for President Trump, who last week appeared poised to derail the bill.
Credit…Erin Scott for The New York Times

President Trump on Sunday abruptly signed a measure providing $900 billion in pandemic aid and funding the government through September, ending last-minute turmoil he himself had created over legislation that will offer an economic lifeline to millions of Americans and avert a government shutdown.

The signing was a sudden reversal for the president, who last week appeared poised to derail the bill. But it arrived after two critical unemployment programs lapsed, guaranteeing a delay in benefits for millions of unemployed Americans.

The legislative package will provide billions of dollars for the distribution of vaccines, funds for schools, small businesses, hospitals and American families, and money needed to keep the government open for the remainder of the fiscal year. The enactment came less than 48 hours before the government would have shut down and just days before an eviction moratorium and other critical pandemic relief provisions were set to expire.

The crisis was of the president’s own making: About 24 hours after Congress overwhelmingly approved the measure, Mr. Trump emerged in a surprise video from the White House on Tuesday night and called for direct payments to be more than tripled to $2,000 per adult.

Over the holiday weekend spent at his Florida estate and golf club, Mr. Trump appeared to double down on his reluctance to sign the legislation, calling for $2,000 direct payments and for Congress to curtail some of the government spending. But in an abrupt reversal on Sunday, he suddenly teased: “Good news on Covid Relief Bill. Information to follow!”

The most pressing issue prompted by the president’s delay was the fate of unemployment benefits. Mr. Trump’s decision to wait multiple days before signing the bill means that two unemployment programs intended to expand and extend federal unemployment benefits lapsed, that guidance for states waiting to reprogram systems and account for the new law was delayed and that millions of unemployed Americans were left not knowing whether federal relief would come.

Lawmakers in both parties spent the weekend urging Mr. Trump to sign the bill and reverse course, with a bipartisan group of lawmakers who had helped break a monthslong logjam in Congress over stimulus aid urging either an immediate signature or a veto in order to “allow those in favor to act before it is too late.”

“I understand he wants to be remembered for advocating for big checks,” Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, said on Fox News. “But the danger is he’ll be remembered for chaos and misery and erratic behavior if he allows this to expire.”

Even as he acquiesced to bipartisan pleas to sign the legislation, the president issued a series of demands for congressional action, though lawmakers showed little immediate eagerness to embrace them with just six days left in the session.

“I will sign the omnibus and Covid package with a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed,” Mr. Trump said in a statement late Sunday, saying he would send a formal request asking for some of the funds to be removed. But the 25-day time frame for considering such a request will collide with the inauguration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Jan. 20, and House Democrats said they do not plan to vote on the request.

House Democrats are essentially daring Republicans to vote against the effort and defy the president.
Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

The House is set to vote on Monday evening to increase the size of individual stimulus checks to $2,000 from $600, forcing Republican lawmakers to either approve the heftier sum or defy President Trump, whose demands for more bigger checks nearly scuttled the entire stimulus package.

Democrats tried and failed last week to more than triple the size of the checks, after Republicans blocked the effort, and made clear they would try again. But their attempt on Monday is ultimately unlikely to succeed, with a two-thirds margin of support required for passage in the House and with strong Republican opposition to the measure in the Senate.

On Sunday, Mr. Trump finally signed off on a $900 billion pandemic relief package he initially denounced as a “disgrace” and refused to sign, unexpectedly demanding that lawmakers more than triple the direct payments. In signing the relief bill on Sunday night, Mr. Trump claimed in a statement that the Senate would “start the process for a vote” on legislation that would increase direct payments and pledged that “much more money is coming.”

But it is unclear whether the Senate will entertain such a measure. Senate Republicans have resisted increasing the payments, citing concerns about the federal budget deficit, and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, in a statement on Sunday made no mention of the $2,000 payments or any of the president’s assertions about the next steps for the chamber he controls.

In putting the measure on the floor to a vote, House Democrats are advancing a measure — larger stimulus checks for Americans — that many in the caucus have long clamored for. But they are also essentially daring Republicans to vote against the effort and defy the president — a move that could have implications for a pair of runoff races in Georgia that will determine control of the Senate.

Jon Ossoff is seeking one of two Senate seats in Georgia that will be decided in a runoff election on Jan. 5.
Credit…Audra Melton for The New York Times

Jon Ossoff has always been adept at making his own breaks. He has consistently outperformed his professional résumé, impressing lawmakers many years his senior with his intellect and drive. And he has capitalized on his own well-off upbringing and a series of well-timed introductions and personal endorsements to rise through Democratic politics in Georgia.

He was 16 when he wrote a letter to John Lewis, the Georgia congressman and civil rights pioneer, that led to a spot as a volunteer in Mr. Lewis’s office.

When Mr. Ossoff was 19 and a rising sophomore at Georgetown, he went to work for Hank Johnson as the primary speechwriter and press aide for Mr. Johnson’s 2006 congressional campaign.

And Mr. Ossoff was 26 when, without any journalism experience other than an internship, he was made chief executive of a small documentary film company based in England.

Now 33, Mr. Ossoff is pursuing his most ambitious goal yet: to capture a seat in the U.S. Senate against an incumbent Republican, David Perdue, in a traditionally conservative state. If successful, he would become the youngest senator in 40 years.

Mr. Ossoff first emerged on the national stage in 2017, when his bid for a House seat in a special election provided Democrats the first opportunity to express resistance to President Trump. Though he lost a close race in a well-off district in suburban Atlanta, the energy surrounding his candidacy enabled him to shatter fund-raising records and build the political network that has put him within reach of the Senate.

That energy has hardly abated. Federal filings made public last week showed Mr. Ossoff to be the best-funded Senate candidate in history after pulling in $106.7 million from mid-October to mid-December — almost $40 million more than Mr. Perdue’s tally. The stunning totals reflect the stakes: If Mr. Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock win their runoff races on Jan. 5, Democrats will gain control of the Senate.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has campaigned for both candidates, hopes a Democratic Senate will help him deliver on his campaign promises. If Republicans retain both seats, Mr. Biden will face steeper challenges in confirming his cabinet choices and will probably have to pare back his ambitions on climate change, immigration, infrastructure spending and other priorities.

Still, Mr. Ossoff has little record to run on, or against.

He has mounted a campaign based less on his own experience and accomplishments and more on the idea that his election will help foster a political change in Georgia.

At campaign events, Mr. Perdue, 71, often fails to even mention Mr. Ossoff as an opponent. Instead, he and Kelly Loeffler, the other Republican Senate candidate, direct most of their attacks at Mr. Warnock, whom they view as a more substantive target.

None of this has dented Mr. Ossoff’s confidence. And far from apologizing for his youth, he has cast himself as the inheritor of the legacy of young people who have taken leadership roles in progressive political organizations in the South.

“We understand, Mr. President, that you’re angry that you lost,” The New York Post told President Trump in an editorial. “But to continue down this road is ruinous.”
Credit…Erin Scott for The New York Times

They call the headlines that front The New York Post “the wood,” and President Trump, so often protected by the friendly tabloid, awakened on Sunday morning to its whistling wallop.

The paper’s blaring headline — “The Post Says: Mr. President … Stop the Insanity” — accompanied a blunt editorial that urged him to abandon the “dark charade” of a far-fetched effort to overturn the results when Congress officially certifies President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory on Jan. 6.

Mr. Trump’s critics have pointed out that his refusal to concede means that he has lost the election not once, but many times — in the polls, in the states, in the courts, over the airwaves and in sympathetic media outlets like Fox News and The Las Vegas Review-Journal, owned by the Republican donor Sheldon Adelson, who urged him to accept the inevitable weeks ago.

The Post has not put its weight behind Mr. Trump’s cause (many recent editorials have acknowledged the reality of an impending Biden presidency without emphasizing it). But the paper, owned by Rupert Murdoch, the Fox founder and Trump ally, had been uncharacteristically subtle about expressing that sentiment. Until now.

“Sidney Powell is a crazy person. Michael Flynn suggesting martial law is tantamount to treason. It is shameful,” the Post’s editorial board wrote, referring to Mr. Trump’s on-again, off-again lawyer and his pardoned former national security adviser.

Both have been promoting discredited conspiracy theories embraced by a president desperate to find any way of reversing the election. The board argued that their continued efforts, if unchecked, will damage the Republican Party’s post-Trump prospects.

“We understand, Mr. President, that you’re angry that you lost,” they wrote. “But to continue down this road is ruinous. We offer this as a newspaper that endorsed you, that supported you: If you want to cement your influence, even set the stage for a future return, you must channel your fury into something more productive.”

The paper, a bastion of liberalism in the 1960s that veered far to the right under Mr. Murdoch, was long Mr. Trump’s go-to outlet on gossip and to promote his real estate, marketing and reality-TV ventures.

The editorial board was also a major booster for Rudolph W. Giuliani, now the president’s personal lawyer, when he was New York mayor, and several of its members remain close to Mr. Giuliani, who has continued to promote false allegations of voter fraud despite a string of humbling defeats in court.

The paper highlighted Mr. Trump’s candidacy in 2016, and endorsed him in the Republican primaries, but declined to pick a favorite when he faced off against Hillary Clinton in the general election.

But the editorial board was a battering ram on behalf of Mr. Trump’s re-election, and repeatedly denounced what it claimed was a coordinated effort by other media outlets to cover up details of the overseas business dealings of Mr. Biden’s son Hunter, which the paper’s reporters covered exhaustively.

And The Post enthusiastically backed Mr. Trump over Mr. Biden this year. The wood that day read: “Make America Great Again, Again.”

Jennifer Bryant and her fiancé, Stephen Patterson, outside their apartment in Flowery Branch, Ga. Without the aid and eviction moratorium in the stimulus bill, they could lose the apartment.
Credit…Audra Melton for The New York Times

More than 10 million Americans who have been left in financial limbo — many of them on the brink of poverty — spent the weekend anxiously awaiting word about whether President Trump would continue to withhold approval of the $900 billion pandemic relief package sent to him on Christmas Eve.

The bill extends unemployment benefits that ran out on Saturday while also providing most taxpayers with a one-time payment of $600, a vital boost for financially pressed workers and an economy on the edge of another contraction.

But President Trump’s unexpected demand for a $2,000 per individual payment put the aid effort in jeopardy, leaving those on the financial edge to wonder how they would pay the rent and put food on their tables.

Then, on Sunday night, he signed the measure.

One of those awaiting the president’s action, Melissa Martinez, 52, of Westminster, Colo., said she had applied for more than 50 jobs since being laid off as an operations manager for a transportation company in April. Like millions of others, her unemployment benefits expired the day after Christmas. “I’m out of options,” she said.

She has a lung condition that requires her to be on oxygen and makes her vulnerable to Covid-19, so she has looked only for jobs that will allow her to work remotely. Without the stimulus money, she said she would seek jobs that require her to show up in person.

Jennifer Bryant and her family need the aid in the stimulus bill to keep their home in Flowery Branch, Ga. She and her fiancé, who have five children between them, had been collecting the now-expired unemployment benefits. Besides the extension of those benefits, the relief package would keep in place a moratorium on evictions that will otherwise expire on Dec. 31.

“When Congress passed it, it was the biggest sigh of relief for us,” said Ms. Bryant, 39, who is about $10,000 behind on her rent. But then she watched a video that Mr. Trump posted on Twitter on Tuesday, in which he called the bill “a disgrace” and implied he would not sign it.

“I went to bed in tears,” Ms. Bryant said. “To have our hope pulled out from under us, our lifeline. It’s devastating.”

More than 20 million Americans are collecting unemployment benefits and the unemployment rate stands at 6.7 percent. A year ago, before the pandemic hit, the jobless rate touched 3.5 percent, tying a 50-year low.

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