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House Set to Vote on $2,000 Checks and Vetoed Defense Bill


DECEMBER 28, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C.— The House prepared to vote Monday on overriding President Trump’s veto of the annual defense policy bill, in a late flurry of congressional action that also includes the first test of the president’s call for $2,000 stimulus checks.

Mr. Trump signed a sweeping $900 billion pandemic-aid bill on Sunday night ending a standoff with Congress and paving the way for millions of Americans to get economic relief as the coronavirus surges across the country. In signing the bill, the president called on Congress to increase the size of direct payments to Americans, and said he wanted an investigation into alleged voter fraud and the repeal of a law concerning social-media companies.

Congress isn’t expected to heed many of the president’s demands, but Democrats did enthusiastically support Mr. Trump’s request to increase direct payments, an idea many Republicans have opposed. The House will vote Monday evening on the legislation to increase the checks to $2,000, up from $600 per adult and per child for individuals with adjusted gross incomes under $75,000. It is unclear if the Senate will take up the measure, which would add hundreds of billions of dollars to the aid package’s price tag.

House lawmakers are also planning on Monday to vote to override Mr. Trump’s veto of the separate $740.5 billion National Defense Authorization Act defense-policy bill, which the president criticized because of provisions related to the removal of Confederate base names and troop levels abroad, as well as the legislation’s lack of language revoking internet platforms’ broad immunity for the content they publish from users on their sites.

Both the House and Senate passed the NDAA earlier this month with veto-proof majorities, but some Republicans have said they would side with Mr. Trump on the override vote. Should the House get the two-thirds majority needed to pass the override, the Senate plans to return on Tuesday to cast its votes on the matter. If successful, it would be the first time Congress has overridden one of Mr. Trump’s vetoes.

Mr. Trump has raised objections to several parts of the NDAA and aid legislation. In his statement announcing he would sign the coronavirus aid bill, Mr. Trump said the Senate will “start the process” to vote on legislation to increase the direct payments, as well as roll back Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and investigate alleged voter fraud.

The president has argued that social-media giants like Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. are using Section 230 to suppress conservative voices on their platforms. They deny those charges, although the social-media sites routinely flag the president’s posts as unsubstantiated when he disputes the results of the election. Mr. Trump has also asserted that the 2020 election was rife with voter fraud, but his allies have produced no evidence.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) declined to comment when asked about the legislation Mr. Trump said the Senate would consider. The Senate is slated to return on Tuesday, and Mr. McConnell will likely speak then.

The session of Congress ends on Jan. 3. It would be difficult for Congress to pass legislation on repealing Section 230 and launch an investigation before that time. Lawmakers could take up the president’s request in the new Congress, though President-elect Joe Biden is slated to be inaugurated on Jan. 20 and will push different priorities.

The massive year-end package that the president signed includes a $1.4 trillion bill to continue government funding into September, a measure that Mr. Trump has said includes wasteful spending on foreign aid.

Mr. Trump said he would use the Impoundment Control Act of 1974 to temporarily freeze some of the funding, though he is unlikely to be able to use the law to permanently hold up those funds, particularly since President-elect Joe Biden will soon be inaugurated. Democrats said that the House will ignore Mr. Trump’s request to rescind funding.

The 5,593-page year-end package includes money for government programs and foreign aid.

The legislation allocates $55.5 billion for discretionary funding in overseas operations, including fighting terrorism, which is $820 million more than the previous year, and $10.8 billion above the president’s budget request.

About $26.5 billion will go to foreign countries for development assistance, global health programs and humanitarian assistance. That amount is $527 million above what was allocated in the previous year.

Much of this funding fulfills bilateral commitments the U.S. has with foreign nations. Much of the aid was requested by the Trump administration in the president’s budget.

The coronavirus relief bill will restart unemployment programs and extend the maximum number of weeks a person can claim unemployment benefits to 50 weeks. It provides an additional $100-a-week subsidy for workers who have both wage and self-employment income but whose basic unemployment benefits don’t take into account their self-employment income.

It also gives unemployed Americans a supplemental benefit of up to $300 a week, a cut from the previous $600 a week that ended in the summer.

The legislation extends until the end of January 2021 a federal eviction prohibition and provides $25 billion of assistance to tenants in arrears on their rent. It also contains billions of dollars to help airlines, small businesses, entertainment venues and farms, as well as money to help Americans get vaccinated from the virus.