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Trump Could Suffer 1st Veto Override Of His Presidency

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So will struggling Americans get $600 or $2,000 in relief checks? The House passed a bill yesterday for $2,000 payments, a demand that President Trump made last week as he held up the relief package. That bill now heads to the Senate. And while the House backed Trump's higher direct payments, they voted to reject his veto of a huge defense policy bill. The Senate will start the same process today, and that sets the stage for a possible first for the president - his first and only veto override of his presidency.

NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez is with us to talk through all of this. Franco, good morning.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: Well, let's start with these higher direct payments. I mean, this is something that President Trump wanted changed in the COVID relief package. And it sounds like House Democrats said, OK, let's try and act on that - we like this idea.

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah, it's one of the reasons Trump blasted the spending package before ultimately signing it on Sunday. He - you know, he came out against the payments, which are up to $600 per person, provided they qualify. But he wanted them boosted to $2,000. Democrats were quick to take Trump up on that. House leaders actually tried to pass it last week by unanimous consent. That failed. But they came back last night to hold a roll-call vote, and it passed with two-thirds support, and more than 40 Republicans voted for it.

GREENE: Interesting. So a bunch of Republicans - or at least a number in the House. Does that mean that it has prospects, in the Senate, to be passed as well?

ORDOÑEZ: Not necessarily. You know, Senate Republican leaders opposed higher checks when negotiating the deal. So it's really thought that it won't go any further. But, you know, that's uncertain. You know, the pressure is really on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Right after the House vote, Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, he said he would push to pass it. So this is going to be politically tricky for many Republicans. And I'll just note that where President-elect Biden stands on all this, he did say yesterday that he supports the $2,000 payments.

GREENE: OK, so we're watching that. We're also watching what happened with this defense bill. House lawmakers voted to override Trump's veto. It was expected, but this is significant, right?

ORDOÑEZ: Absolutely. You know, this is the Defense Authorization Act, which has passed with bipartisan support for 60 straight years. It sets the spending for military and includes provisions like troop raises and benefits. But Trump had issues with it because, one, he wanted it to end legal protections for social media companies. He also opposed the bills calling for the renaming of military facilities named after Confederate figures. Trump did indeed veto the bill, but Congress kind of had this planned out, and they set up these end-of-the-year sessions to try to override him.

GREENE: OK, so what's going to happen with that in the Senate?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, the Senate is controlled by Republicans and - but it's considered likely members will also override the veto as well. Senator Jim Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican and a Trump ally, said he's confident an override would work. I mean, frankly, there is no question the Senate has the votes to do so, but Republicans have proven over and over again that they don't like to go against Trump. And this would be a rebuke. If Republicans split from him, it would actually be the first congressional override of a President Trump veto.

GREENE: Just as the presidency is winding down. Well, let me ask you about the incoming president, President-elect Joe Biden. He slammed President Trump and his administration yesterday for obstructing the transition to power.

ORDOÑEZ: Yes, he did. He - you know, he spoke to reporters and - publicly, after meeting with his national security and foreign policy advisers, he talked about his goals. But he also criticized the Trump administration for holding critical information back from his own team.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE BIDEN: We have encountered roadblocks on the political leadership at the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget. Right now we just aren't getting all the information that we need for the ongoing, outgoing - from the outgoing administration in key national security areas. It's nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility.

ORDOÑEZ: You know, and this is not the first time that Biden has made such accusations against the Trump administration.

GREENE: NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez for us this morning. Franco, thank you as always.

ORDOÑEZ: Hey, David, thank you as always. And it's been an honor working with you and listening to you.

GREENE: Likewise. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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