Congress: A crisis averted and House votes Monday on overriding Trump’s NDAA veto

Dec 28, 2020, 8:12 AM | Updated: 9:51 am

    (CNN) — The President signed the massive spending and stimulus package Sunday night, bringing Washington back from brink of what may have been a weeks-long government shutdown and potentially months of more pain for millions of Americans who need expanded unemployment benefits, small business loans, a federal eviction moratorium and direct checks.

The President’s signature came after days of quiet and careful nudging from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy — an ally in leadership who publicly has maintained a strict allegiance to Trump — Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, and GOP Sen. David Perdue, who is fighting for his political career in a runoff in Georgia and personally met with the President over the holiday break, according to sources familiar with the discussions. Perdue worked to be an invaluable voice in the President’s ear, according to multiple aides, encouraging the President to sign the bill that he argued could bolster the GOP’s Senate majority and would inevitably be celebrated as a win for Trump in his waning days in office.

Bottom Line: There may not be a government shutdown, but the uncertainty, pain and drama surrounding the last five days were always avoidable. The President never had to torpedo a bill that his own Treasury secretary negotiated. And, the President’s delay in signing the Covid relief package has real impacts, further delaying getting aid to Americans who have already been waiting months.

What the President boasts he got and what he really got

The President’s statement made clear on Sunday night that he needed to find a way to back away from the cliff he’d pushed Congress onto. So, he said in his statement that the Senate had agreed to start the process for a vote for increasing direct checks to Americans under certain income levels to $2,000 and a vote to repeal Section 230, which protects tech companies for being held liable for what is posted by users on their websites. Trump also said that an investigation would begin on voter fraud in the US Senate and he would be sending over a series of recissions, cuts he wanted made to the broader omnibus spending bill, which funds the federal government.

Notably, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s statement shortly after Pres. Trump’s announcement included none of those promises.

McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, congratulated Trump on signing the bill and said “the bipartisan rescue package that Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration negotiated with Democrats will extend another major lifeline to workers.” That’s McConnell reminding Trump ever so gently that his administration was in the room the whole time during these talks via Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

The issue of $2,000 checks will come up in the Senate. It’s just not clear it passes. It also appears that right now the only one who has said he will push for it is the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“The House will pass a bill to give Americans $2,000 checks. Then I will move to pass it in the Senate,” Schumer, a Democrat from New York, tweeted Sunday night.

Any senator could object to Schumer’s request, and it’s likely to go down given the fact that many Senate Republicans have been opposed to direct payments in part because how much they cost. The $1,200 checks cost at least $350 billion. Does the dynamic change now that Trump is asking for them? Maybe. But does it change so much that McConnell brings them to the floor for a formal vote? McConnell has made no announcements about plans to start a full Senate vote on $2,000 checks at this point.

In terms of an investigation into election fraud, Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, has already said publicly that if he were to lead the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in the Senate, he would use the committee’s resources to investigate issues related to voter fraud. He already held a hearing on the issue as chairman on the Senate Homeland Committee. But, sources say it is unlikely for the expected new chairman of Homeland Security Sen. Rob Portman to take up that torch and Trump will be out of office in a few weeks anyway.

On recissions

Mr. Trump has said he is sending a recissions package to Congress immediately. But all that does is pause that spending for 45 days. Congress has to approve any suggested changes in spending and the Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee have already said they are not going to approve them.

“The House Appropriations Committee has jurisdiction over rescissions, and our Democratic Majority will reject any rescissions submitted by President Trump,” the committee said in a statement.

Monday’s schedule in the House

The House will vote Monday after 5 p.m. ET on two items.

One will be a vote to override the President’s veto on the National Defense Authorization Act. It will require a two-thirds majority vote. Republicans in leadership haven’t whipped the bill. McCarthy has said that he won’t vote to override Trump’s veto even though he voted for the underlying bill. We expect that members of the Freedom Caucus and a handful of other Republicans will follow McCarthy’s lead.

However, Democrats are growing increasingly confident that they will have the votes they need to override the veto. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith told CNN’s Dana Bash on Sunday night that he thought the votes would be there and even Republican aides are saying they believe there is a very good chance Trump’s veto is overridden Monday night in the House.

The House will also vote on a $2,000 checks. It will also require 2/3 vote because it is occurring under a suspension of the rules. If it fails, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could always put it back on the floor under the normal process that would require a simple majority. Still, Republican aides say it’s possible it passes this evening. Then, all eyes would be on the US Senate and whether McConnell takes up the process on the floor. The Senate is expected to gavel in Tuesday if the House overrides the NDAA.

A reminder that even if the process begins in the Senate on Tuesday to override the NDAA, any single senator can object, likely delaying the actual vote until Sunday when both the House and Senate reconvene for the first day of the 117th Congress.

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Congress: A crisis averted and House votes Monday on overriding Trump’s NDAA veto