Connect with us

“There’s no way we would have a defense authorization bill with that language in it,” Senate Armed Services Chair Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) told POLITICO on Monday. “There’s no question about it. And so obviously, I would have to do what I could to override a veto.”

Inhofe said he has not spoken with Trump since last week, when the president further hardened his stance even as Republicans dismissed his posture outright.

Republican lawmakers appeared exasperated with the president’s ongoing offensive against the must-pass $740 billion bill, which includes a pay raise for U.S. troops and dozens of other bipartisan priorities, including many that the president himself has touted. Congress has succeeded in passing the annual defense bill for almost 60 years.

“I would hope that he would sign the bill. It’s important. We’ve made it very clear that national security is the number one thing we do around here,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters. “If you can’t get that right, the rest is conversation.”

And Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a close ally of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said the defense bill “will pass one way or the other with a strong bipartisan vote.”

“I know there are parts of it the president doesn’t like. There are parts of it I don’t like. But you’ve got to take it as a whole,” Cornyn said.

Many Republicans and Democrats in both chambers support overriding a presidential veto of the National Defense Authorization Act in the waning weeks of Trump’s presidency, with House Democratic leaders saying they will cut a holiday recess short to overturn a veto of the annual defense policy bill.

“If the president vetoes it, we will come back to vote to override,” House Armed Services Chair Adam Smith (D-Wash.) declared Monday.

And House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Monday that it was his “expectation” that the House would come back in session in order to override a presidential veto.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the House GOP Conference chair and an outspoken defense hawk, said bluntly: “We should override.”

The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, retiring Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry, suggested GOP support for the compromise defense bill could grow with several red flags for Republican lawmakers left out of the compromise NDAA, including a massive public lands package that was rolled into the House bill.

A large enough show of support, he said, might avert a veto showdown.

“I think this conference report is better than either of the chambers’ bills,” Thornberry told reporters. “I know [from] a House Republican standpoint that some of the reasons members voted against the bill on the House floor have gone away.”

“The stronger the vote, the better the case is that Section 230 needs to be addressed, but in a different place and in a different way,” he said. “Doing it on the defense bill, airdropping it at the last minute, is not the right way.”

Top Democrats, too, believe that strong backing for the defense bill could push Trump off of his demand.

“The first step is passing the bill. And I think if there’s a very strong vote on both sides, that will be a disincentive for the president to veto it. I think that’s what his staff would recommend,” said Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee. But, Reed added: “[Trump] is unpredictable.”

Leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have emphasized the need to pass the landmark bill by December. Without a defense bill, a number of key authorities, including special pay and bonuses for troops, will expire at the end of the year.

Killing the defense bill, they warned, would effectively punish U.S. service members for Washington’s inability to agree on one of the few remaining bills to reliably become law each year.

“All members have to bear the consequences of a ‘no’ vote,” Thornberry said. “And one of the consequences is that military pay is going to go down, that we are going to forego a lot of important bipartisan steps to better compete with the threat from China.”

With the House set to pass the defense bill on Tuesday and the Senate expected to follow suit shortly thereafter, congressional leaders are preparing for several different scenarios.

One is the possibility that Trump seeks to run out the clock and force Congress to remain in session until right before Christmas. The Constitution allows the president 10 days, excluding Sundays, to sign or veto a bill. As long as Congress remains in session during those 10 days, the bill can become law without his signature, but if they adjourn for the holidays, the bill does not become law, in what is known as a pocket veto.

Some lawmakers have called for passing a slimmed-down version of the defense bill that only includes provisions that must be renewed by year’s end. Armed Services leaders have dismissed the possibility of a “skinny” NDAA.

“If for some reason it doesn’t pass and we can’t override the veto, the only option is to try to pass this exact deal when Joe Biden becomes president on Jan. 20,” Smith said.

“A ‘skinny’ bill is not an option,” he added. “There are demands and priorities that people have that a skinny bill will not address, and then we won’t have the votes.”

Lawmakers are feeling a sense of urgency to get the bill to Trump’s desk as quickly as possible in order to start the 10-day clock so that a veto can get returned to Capitol Hill more quickly. Hoyer said Monday that he wants to avoid the possibility of a pocket veto.

It would mark the first override of a veto by Trump if the House and Senate are successful. Trump has nixed a handful of bills during his term, including resolutions to block military funding for a border wall and terminate arms sales to the Middle East. None of those efforts came close to overriding Trump’s vetoes.

The House and Senate both passed their versions of the defense bill with veto-proof majorities in July. Congressional leaders are bullish that they can replicate that support this week.

House leaders have little margin after passing their bill with 295 votes in favor, just over the two-thirds threshold. The Senate passed its defense bill over the summer with 86 votes, well above a two-thirds majority, and has a much greater cushion on a veto override vote. Still, some cracks have emerged among the bloc of GOP senators who supported the original bill.

Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a vocal defense hawk and Trump ally, is backing the president’s effort to include a Section 230 repeal in the defense bill, tweeting on Friday: “We have a Defense Department to protect our liberty, but our liberty is at risk if we don’t change Section 230.”

Conservative Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, who supported the original Senate bill, said he’ll oppose the final bill over Section 230 and the inclusion of an amendment, authored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), that would force the Pentagon to rename military bases that honor Confederate leaders.

Democrats who vote against the bill this week could vote in favor of overriding it as a show of opposition to Trump.

Warren, who is likely to oppose the bill despite securing her provision on Confederate bases, told POLITICO that she was “very worried about the topline number.” When asked if she would vote to override a Trump veto, Warren replied: “Yes. You don’t even have to finish that question.”

For Thornberry, opposing the must-pass bill because it doesn’t address online companies’ liability protections “can’t be the standard.”

“If somebody’s going to vote no on a bill because of what’s not in it, that has nothing to do with it, then the possibilities are limitless,” Thornberry said. “You can vote no on the defense bill because it doesn’t fix health care or immigration or taxes or whatever you care about.”

Burgess Everett contributed to this report.

Source link

Continue Reading


Pelosi to move forward with impeachment if Pence doesn’t act to remove Trump

210108 pelosi ap 773

“In protecting our Constitution and our Democracy, we will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat to both,” Pelosi said in the letter to Democrats on Sunday night laying out next steps.

The House will try to pass a measure on Monday imploring Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, through which he and the Cabinet declare Trump “incapable of executing the duties of his office, after which the Vice President would immediately exercise powers as acting president.” If Republicans object, as is virtually certain, Democrats will pass the bill via a roll call vote on Tuesday.

“We are calling on the Vice President to respond within 24 hours,” Pelosi wrote. “Next, we will proceed with bringing impeachment legislation to the Floor.”

But it’s not clear when exactly the Senate will take up the House’s measure. The Senate isn’t scheduled to return until Jan. 19, but will hold pro forma sessions on Tuesday and Friday. In theory, a senator could try to pass the House resolution by unanimous consent, but as of now it appears unlikely that it would pass.

On Monday, multiple House Democrats plan to introduce impeachment resolutions that would become the basis of any impeachment article considered by the House later this week.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who will introduce an article of impeachment against Trump on Monday, said on Sunday that roughly 200 Democrats have co-sponsored the measure.

Currently, 211 voting members (plus three nonvoting members) support Cicilline’s legislation, and they are hoping to reach 217 voting members by Monday morning, enough for the House to impeach Trump, one Democratic source familiar with the matter told POLITICO.

A small number of Democrats have opted not to co-sign the bill, but privately say they will vote to support the resolution on the floor, the source added.

The impeachment effort in the House is likely to be bipartisan, with Democrats expecting at least one GOP lawmaker — Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — to sign on. A handful of other House Republicans are seriously weighing it, according to several sources, though those lawmakers are waiting to see how Democrats proceed, and some are concerned about dividing the country even further.

Among the GOP members whom Democrats are keeping an eye on are Reps. John Katko of New York, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Fred Upton of Michigan, Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington.

Across the Capitol, at least two Republicans — Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have called on Trump to resign. On Saturday, Toomey told Fox News, “I do think the president committed impeachable offenses,” but told CNN the next day that he does not believe there is enough time to impeach.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) has also said he would consider articles of impeachment.

Another option has emerged among some Republican and moderate Democratic circles — censuring Trump — though it remains highly unlikely to advance.

A censure resolution would gain far more support in the GOP than impeachment. Some Republicans have privately been pushing for that route and are trying to get Biden on board, according to GOP sources. That group of Republicans is also warning that impeachment could destroy Biden’s reputation with Republicans.

But censure is considered a nonstarter in an incensed House Democratic Caucus, where members see it as a slap on the wrist that gives Republicans an easy out.

The Democrats’ enormous step toward impeachment on Sunday comes after Pelosi and other top Democrats held a private call on Saturday night in which they discussed the potential ramifications that a lengthy impeachment trial could have on Biden’s presidency.

Democratic leaders discussed several options to limit the political effects on Biden’s first 100 days, with one option — floated by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) — for the House to delay the start of an impeachment trial in the Senate by holding on to the article of impeachment.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has sent out a memo to senators explaining that the Senate could not take up impeachment until Jan. 19 at the earliest, absent unanimous consent.

A final decision has not been made, and House Democrats will discuss the matter on a 2 p.m. caucus call on Monday.

Lawmakers are already privately expressing concerns about returning to the Capitol for multiple days this week, worried about both a potential coronavirus outbreak and whether the building is secure, given how easily an armed pro-Trump mob invaded on Wednesday.

The Capitol physician urged House lawmakers and staff to get tested in a memo Sunday, saying they might have been exposed to someone who had the virus while huddling for safety in a large committee room for hours on Wednesday. During the hourslong lockdown, several Republican members refused to wear masks despite being offered them by Democrats worried about the spread of the deadly virus.

Melanie Zanona, Olivia Beavers and Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.

Source link

Continue Reading


Matt Hancock Scraps “Unnecessary Training Modules” Blamed For Slowing Vaccine Rollout

PA 57409526 mk3qwz

Matt Hancock has agreed to remove some of the training modules required for volunteers to sign up to deliver the Covid-19 vaccine (PA)

5 min read

Matt Hancock said people will no longer need to undertake training including an anti-terrorism course to give the coronavirus jab after MPs said “bureaucratic rubbish” was delaying mass vaccination.

It comes as MPs called for the government to produce targets for the number of people given immunity before lockdown can be lifted.

The health secretary said a series of “unnecessary training modules” are being scrapped to speed up the process of getting people qualified to deliver the jab.

Speaking in the Commons, Sir Edward Leigh said he was shown by his fellow the Tory MP, a qualified GP, the “ridiculous form” he had filled out to start delivering the vaccine.

“When he’s inoculating an old lady, he’s not going to ask her if she’s come into contact with Jihadis or whatever, so the Secretary has got to cut through all this bureaucratic rubbish,” he said.

In response Mr Hancock said: “I am a man after Sir Edward’s heart and I can tell the House that we have removed a series of the unnecessary training modules that had been put in place, including fire safety, terrorism and others.

“I’ll write to him with the full panoply of the training that is not required and we have been able to remove, and we made this change as of this morning and I am glad to say it is enforced.

“I am a fan of busting bureaucracy and in this case I agree with him that it is not necessary to undertake anti-terrorism training in order to inject vaccines.”

Dr Fox had earlier challenged Boris Johnson to drop the “bureaucracy” and “political correctness” of the forms vaccine volunteers must fill out.

He told MPs: “As a qualified but non-practising doctor, I volunteered to help with the scheme and would urge others to do the same. 

“But, can I ask the Prime Minister why I’ve been required to complete courses on conflict resolution, equality, diversity and human rights, moving and handling loads and preventing radicalisation in order to give a simple Covid jab?”

Mr Johnson said he had been “assured by the Health Secretary that all such obstacles, all such pointless pettifoggery has been removed”.

The government has been attempting to recruit thousands of volunteers to help with a mass vaccination programme, and with the recent approval of the more easily deliverable Oxford/AstraZeneca version has today revealed the location of seven mass vaccination centres set to open next week.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told journalists at a briefing they would be at Robertson House in Stevenage, the ExCel Centre in London, the Centre for Life in Newcastle, the Etihad Tennis Centre in Manchester, Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey, Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol and Millennium Point in Birmingham, and it is expected they will be run with a combination of NHS staff and volunteers.

But so far the government has not said how many people need to be inoculated before it has an impact on the coronavirus restrictions.

Mr Hancock was asked by a number of MPs if the measures could be eased once the top few tiers in the vaccine priority list had been clear.

Former Conservative chief whip Mark Harper said once the top four groups, which includes care home residents and staff, frontline NHS workers, the clinically extremely vulnerable and everyone over 70 “we’ve taken care therefore of 80% of the risk of death”.

Adding: “What possible reason is there at that point for not rapidly relaxing the restrictions that are in place on the rest of our country?”

The health secretary replied: “We have to see the impact of that vaccination on the reduction in the number of deaths, which I very much hope that we will see at that point, and so that is why we will take this – an evidence-led move down through the tiers, when we’ve broken the link, I hope, between cases and hospitalisations and deaths.”

The ex-Tory minister and another doctor, Andrew Murrison, said: “The logic of anticipating what is going to happen in two or three or four weeks’ time from the number of cases we are getting at the moment is that we can do the same in reverse.

“That is to say, when we have a sufficient number of people vaccinated up we can anticipate in two or three or four weeks’ time how many deaths have been avoided. 

“That means, since it cuts both ways he will be able to make a decision on when we should end these restrictions.”

Mr Hancock replied: “The logic of the case that Dr Murrison makes is the right logic and we want to see that happen in empirical evidence on the ground.

“This hope for the weeks ahead doesn’t take away, though, from the serious and immediate threat posed now.”

The Cabinet minister said the challenge for the government is to increase the amount of doses available, claiming “the current rate-limiting factor on the vaccine rollout is the supply of approved, tested, safe vaccine”.

He added: ”We are working with both AstraZeneca and Pfizer to increase that supply as fast as possible and they’re doing a brilliant job.”

But Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called for the government to ramp up its vaccination programme to six million doses a week.

He told the Commons: “The Prime Minister has promised almost 14 million will be offered the vaccine by mid-Feb. That depends on around two million doses a week on average.

“Both [Mr Hancock] and the Prime Minister have reassured us in recent days that it’s doable based on orders.

“But in the past ministers have told us that they had agreements for 30 million AstraZeneca doses by September 2020 and 10 million of Pfizer doses by the end of 2020.

“So, I think people just want to understand the figures and want clarity. Can ministers tell us how many of the ordered doses have been manufactured?”

Mr Ashworth added: “Two million a week would be fantastic but it should be the limit of our ambitions, we should be aiming to scale up to three, then five, then six million jabs a week over the coming months.”

Source link

Continue Reading


How South African police are tackling pangolin smugglers


Quiet, solitary and nocturnal, the pangolin has few natural enemies, but researchers believe it is the most trafficked mammal in the world. The tough scales covering its body are sought after for use in Chinese medicine, in the erroneous belief that they have healing properties.

The animal has also been of interest to researchers during the coronavirus pandemic. Related viruses have been found in trafficked pangolins, though there is continued uncertainty around early theories that pangolins were involved in the transmission of the virus from animals to humans.

After South African police seized a pangolin from suspected smugglers, BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding witnessed how vets tried to save the animal’s life.

Source link

Continue Reading