At long last, the Republican party appears to have broken the shackles placed on it by an increasingly intemperate leader whose refusal to acknowledge defeat in last November’s presidential election has caused red faces all around America, but especially within its ranks.
By voting to overturn a veto applied by outgoing President Donald Trump on a defence policy bill, the United States Senate sent a message which must echo in the White House.
This was the first time a Presidential veto applied by Mr. Trump was overturned, and the vote was overwhelming in the Republican-dominated Senate.
Senators voted 81-13 to override his veto, making it clear to the President that his support within his party has shrunk significantly after his wild and unsubstantiated claims of electoral fraud were turned down in multiple suits preferred by his team. Mr Trump has been berating his party for not backing his claims with what he considers enough enthusiasm, and more recently for moving to override his veto.
While the President has the power to veto a Bill passed by Congress, a two-thirds majority in each house of the bicameral legislature can override this. The Democrat-dominated House of Representatives had already overturned the veto. The $740 billion National Defence Authorisation Act has wide-ranging implications, covering soldiers’ pay, defence acquisitions and geopolitical strategy. Mr Trump was miffed with its provisions because it did not repeal legal protections to social media platforms and contained a proposal to remove the names of Confederate generals from American military bases.
The outgoing President will be especially peeved with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell who on the eve of the vote had declared, “We’ve passed this legislation 59 years in a row. And one way or another, we’re going to complete the 60th annual NDAA and pass it into law before this Congress concludes on Sunday.”
America and Mr Trump may have one final embarrassment to confront before this Presidential term concludes. Even as his veto was being overturned, Mr Trump took to social media to extend support to a protest rally being planned by his supporters in Washington next week, when Congress is slated to officially tally Electoral College votes to certify Mr Joe Biden’s victory in the Presidential election.
Mr Trump has exhorted fellow Republicans to object on his behalf, and while many may indeed do so, it is widely expected that these objections will be dismissed. When that happens, it will be the last nail in the coffin of a Presidency marked by acrimony, boorishness and in recent weeks, an utter absence of grace.
America, which has long offered itself to the world as a standard-bearer of democratic conventions, must now be squirming at the prospect of such gracelessness manifesting itself in the transition of power that will take place on 20 January with the inauguration of a new President.