Republicans condemn Trump on aid checks and security bill as Congress winds down

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On New Year’s Day, the Senate ended a rare session in which Republicans rejected President Donald Trump’s demand for $2,000 (£1462) aid checks for Covid-19 and overruled his veto of a sweeping defense bill.

At the end of a tumultuous Congress, the changes came as an emphatic double rebuke to the vanquished president.

For the last time, Democrats sought to push a House-passed bill that would lift the $600 (438 pounds) in direct aid that Congress had just authorized to $2,000, as Mr. Trump had asked for millions of Americans. Republicans also blocked a vote, claiming that they prefer a more targeted strategy.

The rejection of the top priorities of Mr. Trump, along with his presidency’s first veto override vote, demonstrated the President’s party’s unprecedented willingness to challenge Mr. Trump, who is now in his final days in the White House after losing President-elect Joe Biden’s November victory.

On Twitter, Mr. Trump disciplined the GOP leadership. “Pathetic!!!” he wrote.

But Mr. Trump seemed more focused on his next battle to reverse the election results during the session next week in which the ballots of the Electoral College are counted.

Congress is ending a dizzying session, a two-year political firestorm that started with U.S. history’s longest government shutdown, was riven by impeachment hearings and a pandemic, and is now ending with the president’s rare censorship by the GOP.

After the new Congress is sworn in on Sunday, Democrats vowed to quickly relive the $2,000 check scheme.

Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said, “President-elect Joe Biden has made it clear that the pandemic relief bill that Congress passed is just a down payment on the work that needs to continue,” “We will continue to fight for a direct payment check of $2,000.”

As senators squabbled over the holidays at the Capitol, tensions ran high.

The year-end assistance and funding package for Covid-19 was disrupted by Trump’s demands for additional aid, pushing his Republican allies to stand alone, while Democrats supported his call for more direct payments to poor American households.

As he did all week, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer attempted to put the idea to a vote, saying “the only thing standing in the way” is Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of the Senate and other Republican senators.

Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the second-ranking Republican, rose to disagree, saying the plan was “not an effective way” to satisfy the needs of Americans.

That attracted an angry tweet from Mr. Trump, who said the Republican governor of the state, Kristi Noem, was expected to challenge Mr. Thune in the primary, facing a re-election battle.

But presidential tweets that once inspired fear might be losing their punch among Republicans.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski told reporters that at this moment, on New Year’s Day, she considered it “very discouraging at this time, on New Year’s Day, that the president would work to pit Republican against Republican.”

The last-minute demands of Trump plunged Congress into a chaotic year-end session that deepened the rift within the party between the GOP’s new faction, populists of Trump’s style unwilling to challenge the president, and the mainstream conservative views.

Among those senators who also backed Trump’s push for Covid 19 help was Sen. Josh Hawley, who vowed to lead Trump’s call for elections next session week.

Mr. Hawley found himself in common cause with the Vermont independent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, who came out on Friday in favor of a vote.

In a sweeping year-end bundle, the powerful McConnell showed little interest in Trump’s drive to raise the $600 aid checks just passed, saying Congress had provided ample pandemic aid for now.

As adopted by the House, he rejected the plan as “socialism for rich people” who did not need federal assistance.

McConnell introduced his own bill to reel in major tech firms, peppered with Trump’s other priorities.

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