Senate may return on December 29 for something big

Having passed both the garbage-laden COVID relief bill and the omnibus spending package that should keep the lights on until next September, Congress is preparing to head home for Christmas. (This despite everyone being told that Christmas travel is A Bad Thing.) But it looks like there truly is no rest for the wicked, or for the swampy for that matter. Nancy Pelosi has already announced that the House will be on standby to return to Washington on December 28th. And as of early this morning, Cocaine Mitch has followed suit and will be standing by to summon the upper chamber back to work on the 29th. But what’s so important that they all need to be torn away from their families at such a time?

The fly in the ointment is National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The defense spending bill has already passed in both chambers by a wide margin, but the President has been threatening to veto it since the day it was approved. He has until tomorrow to do so. And if he makes good on that threat, everyone will have to be dragged back to Washington to attempt to override the veto and fund the military for the next year. Despite the broad, bipartisan support that the NDAA attracted when it passed, a veto still isn’t a sure thing, however. (The Hill)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced early Tuesday morning that the Senate will return to Washington on Dec. 29 in order to respond to a potential veto from President Trump of a mammoth defense bill.

McConnell, speaking from the Senate floor, said that he had struck a deal with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) for the chamber to return for a rare post-Christmas session where he said they will “process” a veto override, if it’s passed by the House.

“My intention was and is to ensure the Senate continues fulfilling our obligation to the men and women of our Armed Forces. I hope the president will not veto this bill,” McConnell said from the Senate floor.

While I’ve mostly given up on trying to predict what President Trump will or won’t do on any given day, there are reasons to believe he may back down and not veto this bill. The largest among them is the President’s well-known distaste for coming out of any negotiation looking like “a loser.” He has vetoed eight bills over the course of his administration and not one of them has been overridden. Somehow I doubt that he wants to finish out the four years of his first term by seeing Congress unite against his wishes and put one in the loss column for him. And by now, surely someone has pointed out to him that the NDAA passed with enough support to do just that.

But then again, this isn’t a sure thing. While the total votes to override are almost certainly present, there are some members who remain very opposed to this bill in particular and defense spending in general. And those members have some procedural tricks at their disposal that could gum up the works and drag out the veto override process. One of those people is Senator Rand Paul. He’s already stated that he’s prepared to fly back to DC to defend the President’s veto.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has aligned closely with Trump and tried to slow walk the defense bill earlier this month, indicated Monday he could similarly delay an override vote.

“I very much am opposed to the Afghan war, and I’ve told them I’ll come back to try to prevent them from easily overriding the president’s veto,” Paul told reporters.

Rand Paul and a few others can move to force cloture on the bill, along with a couple of other procedural tricks, but all that’s really going to do is slow things down. I really don’t see any way that the NDAA can be stopped entirely, nor should it be. As we’ve discussed here before, I disagree with the President’s reasons for opposing it, particularly an insistence on including an end to Section 230, which has virtually nothing to do with defense spending. It really might be best for Donald Trump, in the long run, to just let the clock run out on this one and get on with business.