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Trump heading for exit with tail between his legs after party rebuke

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Time to go: President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, are packing their things as they prepare to leave the White House. Photo: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Time to go: President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, are packing their things as they prepare to leave the White House. Photo: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Time to go: President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, are packing their things as they prepare to leave the White House. Photo: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Republicans in Congress are about to hand President Donald Trump the biggest legislative loss of his presidency by helping Democrats override his veto for the first time.

On Monday, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to override the veto of what is normally a broad bipartisan defence bill. The Republican-controlled Senate is setting up a vote to do the same this week.

It is worth asking how much of a rebuke this is by Trump’s own party. In one sense, it’s big. In today’s hyper-partisan environment, members of a party do not willingly and easily override the president of the same party.

This veto override is coming from a GOP that has been consistently loyal to Trump, even as he has forced party members to overturn many of their core principles.

Republicans have been willing to distance themselves these past four years from their previous views on immigration, government spending, election security and even acknowledgment of the results of a free and fair election.

Most drew the line here, on funding and supporting the military.

However, there are also plenty of reasons not to read too much into this.

The first is the most obvious: Trump is leaving office in a few weeks. It is simply less risky for Republicans to override a veto now that he will not be president for much longer.

The Washington Post ’s Karoun Demirjian counts that Congress has tried and failed to override eight other Trump vetoes.

Republicans have occasionally voted in ways that rebuke Trump, if not this forcefully. Most notably, in 2018, Congress took a historic vote to end the Trump administration’s participation in the war in Yemen. Most often, though, their concerns about the president have been expressed only in private rooms.

This veto override is happening after Trump significantly weakened his negotiating power with Congress on a separate matter, a dual bill on coronavirus relief and government spending. After his administration negotiated key parts of the package and Congress passed it by wide margins, Trump publicly opposed it.

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He kept Congress in doubt for days about the fate of perhaps the most important legislation of 2020 before eventually signing it on Sunday. He exacted precisely zero concessions, and arguably made his party look bad in the process.

Coronavirus stimulus is popular, but Trump cast a spotlight on the fact that Republicans did not want to do it, writes The Post’s Aaron Blake.

Republicans saw no reason to negotiate with the president during or after his holdout on the coronavirus bill.

Earlier on Monday, most Republicans in the House voted against a Democratic-approved bill to increase the coronavirus stimulus cheques in the legislation from $600 to $2,000 (€490 to €1,630), a move Trump supports.

It is not clear if the Republican Senate will take this up, even though Trump has made expanded stimulus cheques one of his core issues this past week.

Perhaps things would have been different for Trump on the defence bill had he not severely frustrated members of his own party only days before they were scheduled to consider overriding him.

Some powerful Republicans did side with Trump on the defence bill.

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, the top House Republican, said he would vote against overriding Trump’s veto, even though only weeks earlier he voted for this very legislation.

(He was not able to vote on Monday because he was recovering from elbow surgery, reported C-SPAN’s Craig Caplan.)

A handful of other House Republicans who originally supported the legislation before Trump’s veto also effectively voted against it on Monday.

In the Senate, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Trump ally, may do the same.

Graham made regular appearances on the president’s Twitter feed on Monday, urging Republicans to consider Trump’s demands, chief among them an unrelated provision to make it easier to sue social media companies for content on their sites.

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Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Photo: REUTERS/Ken Cedeno/File Photo

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Photo: REUTERS/Ken Cedeno/File Photo

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Photo: REUTERS/Ken Cedeno/File Photo

We will see how many, if any, Senate Republicans join Graham.

The reality is that Trump has never been very good at dealing with Congress. Its members have often played along, at least rhetorically.

He has kept Republican lawmakers from publicly criticising him, and he did get a remarkable number of them to deny he lost the presidential election, a moment without parallel in modern American history.

However, Monday’s veto override in the House underscores that Trump has struggled to actually change their minds on policy.

He never got the money he sought for his border wall with Mexico; he was forced to accept harsher policies toward Russia than he wanted; and he is going to leave office without Congress acquiescing to his last-minute demands.

That Republicans are rebuking Trump so forcefully and clearly suggests a significant weakening of his power over Congress when it comes to policymaking.

However, there are also plenty of reasons not to read too much into this in regard to Republicans’ relationship with Trump.

We will never know what may have happened if Trump were heading into a second term, rather than out of the White House in a few weeks’ time.

© Washington Post


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