The 81-13 vote in the Senate on the widely popular defence bill followed an earlier 322-87 override vote in the House. The bill affirms a 3 per cent pay raise for US troops and guides defence policy, cementing decisions about troop levels, new weapons systems and military readiness, personnel policy and other military goals.

House Speaker, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, said the “sweeping and overwhelmingly bipartisan votes” in the House and Senate “delivered a resounding rebuke to President Trump’s reckless assault on America’s military and national security”.

Trump’s veto of the National Defence Authorisation Act “would have hurt the health, financial security and safety of our service members, their families, our veterans and our allies and partners worldwide,” Pelosi said. “Instead of keeping Americans safe, the President continues to use his final moments in office to sow chaos and undermine our security.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell voted for the bill, saying it was "our chance to keep up with competitors like Russia and China".

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell voted for the bill, saying it was “our chance to keep up with competitors like Russia and China”. Credit:Bloomberg

The defence bill, which now has the force of law, “looks after our brave men and women who volunteer to wear the uniform,” said Senate Majority Leader, Republican Mitch McConnell. “But it’s also a tremendous opportunity: to direct our national security priorities to reflect the resolve of the American people and the evolving threats to their safety, at home and abroad. It’s our chance to ensure we keep pace with competitors like Russia and China.”

The Senate override was delayed after Democrat Senator Bernie Sanders objected to moving ahead until McConnell allowed a vote on the Trump-backed plan to boost COVID relief payments to $2,000. McConnell did not allow that vote; instead he used his parliamentary power to set a vote limiting debate on the defence measure, overcoming a filibuster threat by Sanders and Senate Democrat leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

Without a bipartisan agreement, a vote on the bill could have been delayed until Saturday night. Lawmakers, however, agreed to an immediate roll call Friday once the filibuster threat was stopped.

Trump vetoed the bill last week, arguing that it did not curb Twitter.

Trump vetoed the bill last week, arguing that it did not curb Twitter. Credit:AP

Trump vetoed the defence measure last week, saying it failed to limit Twitter and other social media companies he claimed were biased against him during his failed reelection campaign. Trump also opposed language that allows for the renaming of military bases that honour Confederate leaders.

Republican senator Jim Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a close Trump ally, hailed the override vote.

“Today, the Senate sent a strong message of support to our troops,” Inhofe said. “Not only does this bill give our service members and their families the resources they need, but it also makes our nation more secure — pushing back against China and Russia (and) strengthening our cyber defences.”

Trump has succeeded throughout his four-year term in enforcing party discipline in Congress, with few Republicans willing to publicly oppose him. The bipartisan overrides on the defence bill showed the limits of Trump’s influence in the final weeks of his term.

Earlier this week, 130 House Republicans voted against the Trump-backed COVID relief checks, with many arguing they were unnecessary and would increase the federal budget deficit. The Democrat-controlled House approved the larger payments, but the plan is all but dead in the Senate, another sign of Trump’s fading hold over Congress.

Only seven Republican senators voted with Trump to oppose the override. Forty Republicans voted for the override, along with 41 Democrats. Sanders and five other liberals who opposed the defence bill also voted against the override.

Besides his concerns about social media and military base names, Trump also complained that the bill restricted his ability to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan and Germany. The measure requires the Pentagon to submit reports certifying that the proposed withdrawals would not jeopardise national security.


Trump has vetoed eight other bills, but those were all sustained because supporters did not gain the two-thirds vote needed in each chamber for the bills to become law without Trump’s signature.

Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called Trump’s December 23 veto a “parting gift” to Russian President Vladimir Putin “and a lump of coal for our troops. Donald Trump is showing more devotion to Confederate base names than to the men and women who defend our nation”.

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