Republicans rebuff Trump on aid cheques and defence bill as Congress wraps up

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Demoncrats proposal for $2,000 stimulus checks has no realistic path to quickly pass the Senate

The Senate wrapped up a rare New Year's Day session with Republicans rejecting President Donald Trump's demand for 2,000 dollar (£1462) Covid-19 aid cheques and overriding his veto of a sweeping defence bill.

The moves came as an emphatic double rebuke of the defeated president at the end of a chaotic Congress.

Democrats tried a final time to push forward a House-passed bill that would boost the 600 dollar (£438) direct aid payments just approved by Congress to 2,000 dollars as Mr Trump demanded for millions of Americans. Republicans blocked a vote, arguing in favour of a more targeted approach.

The rejection of Mr Trump's top priorities, along with the first veto override of his presidency, offered an unusual willingness by the president's party to confront Mr Trump, now in his final days in the White House after losing the November election to President-elect Joe Biden.

Mr Trump lashed out at GOP leadership on Twitter. "Pathetic!!!" he wrote.

But Mr Trump appeared more focused on his next battle to overturn the results of the election during next week's session tallying the Electoral College votes.

Congress is ending a dizzying session, a two-year political firestorm that started with the longest federal government shutdown in US history, was riven by impeachment and a pandemic, and now closes with the GOP's rare rebuke of the president.

Democrats vowed to swiftly revive the plan for 2,000 dollar cheques after the new Congress is sworn in Sunday.

"President-elect Joe Biden has made clear that the pandemic relief bill that Congress passed is simply a down payment on the work that needs to continue," said Democratic representative Hakeem Jeffries, the chair of the House Democratic caucus. "We're going to continue to fight for a $2,000 direct payment cheque."

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Donald Trump in the days since his election loss
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Donald Trump in the days since his election loss
President Donald Trump is tossed a golf ball as he golfs at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
President Donald Trump, second from the left, plays golf at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Surrounded by Army cadets, President Donald Trump watches the first half of the 121st Army-Navy Football Game in Michie Stadium at the United States Military Academy, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, in West Point, N.Y. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
El presidente Donald Trump camina por el jardín sur de la Casa Blanca, el 12 de diciembre de 2020. (AP Foto/Patrick Semansky, File)
President Donald Trump boards Air Force One at in Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, to travel to Michie Stadium at the United States Military Academy to attend the 121st Army-Navy Football Game at West Point, N.Y. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Donald Trump speaks during an "Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Summit" on the White House complex, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
El presidente Donald Trump escucha la pregunta de un reportero durante la ceremonia de entrega de la Medalla Presidencial de la Libertad, el máximo honor civil, al exentrenador de lucha y campeón olímpico Dan Gable, en la Oficina Oval de la Casa Blanca, el lunes 7 de diciembre de 2020, en Washington. (AP Foto/Patrick Semansky)
President Donald Trump prepares to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, to Olympic gold medalist and former University of Iowa wrestling coach Dan Gable in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday, Dec. 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally for Senate Republican candidates, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., and Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., at Valdosta Regional Airport, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in Valdosta, Ga. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a news conference in the briefing room at the White House in Washington, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Donald Trump leaves after speaking at the White House, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a news conference in the briefing room at the White House in Washington, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 20: President Donald J. Trump departs after delivering remarks on delivering lower prescription drug prices for all Americans in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on Friday, Nov 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 20: President Donald Trump stands by after speaking to reporters about prescription drug prices in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on Friday, Nov 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 20: U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to speak to the press in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on November 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Donald Trump held his first press conference in over a week to make an announcement on prescription drug prices as he continues to challenge the results of the 2020 Presidential election. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump watches from the motorcade as he returns to the White House in Washington, DC, after playing golf on November 7, 2020. - Joyous celebrations erupted in Washington on Saturday after Joe Biden was declared winner of the US presidency, as several people poured into the streets of the US capital -- some of them chanting, cheering and singing in front of the White House. (Photo by ALEX EDELMAN / AFP) (Photo by ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images)
President Donald Trump plays a round of Golf at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling Va., Sunday Nov. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
President Donald Trump plays a round of Golf at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling Va., Sunday Nov. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
President Donald Trump gives two thumbs up to supporters as he departs after playing golf at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling Va., Sunday Nov. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
President Donald Trump gives two thumbs up to supporters as he departs after playing golf at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling Va., Sunday Nov. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
President Donald Trump returns to the White House after playing a round of golf, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump returns to the White House after playing a round of golf, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump arrives at the White House after golfing Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump talks on the phone as he arrives at the White House after golfing Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump arrives at the White House after golfing Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump participates in a round of golf at the Trump National Golf Course on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Sterling, Va. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
US President Donald Trump watches from the motorcade as he returns to the White House in Washington, DC, after playing golf on November 7, 2020. - Joyous celebrations erupted in Washington on Saturday after Joe Biden was declared winner of the US presidency, as several people poured into the streets of the US capital -- some of them chanting, cheering and singing in front of the White House. (Photo by ALEX EDELMAN / AFP) (Photo by ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images)
President Donald Trump returns to the White House from playing golf in Washington, DC on November 7, 2020, after Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election. - Joyous celebrations erupted in Washington on Saturday after Joe Biden was declared winner of the US presidency, as several people poured into the streets of the US capital -- some of them chanting, cheering and singing in front of the White House. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump arrives to speak in the Brady Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, DC on November 5, 2020. - Democrat Joe Biden is leading President Donald Trump in the race for the 270 electoral votes that will put one of them over the top, with the Democrat's campaign asserting they believe he has enough votes to win in key battleground states that remain undecided, like Pennsylvania. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, in Washington, as White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany listens. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 05: U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to speak in the briefing room at the White House on November 5, 2020 in Washington, DC. Votes are still being counted two days after the presidential election as incumbent Trump is in a close race against challenger Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, which remains too close to call. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
El presidente Donald Trump habla en la Casa Blanca, Washington, 5 de noviembre de 2020. (AP Foto/Evan Vucci)
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Tensions ran high as senators sniped over slogging through the holiday season at the Capitol.

Mr Trump's demands for additional aid upended the year-end Covid-19 relief and federal funding package, forcing his Republican allies to stand alone as Democrats embraced his push for more direct payments to struggling American households.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer tried, as he has all week, to push the proposal for a vote, saying "the only thing standing in the way" was Republican senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican senators.

Mitch McConnell
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (AP)

The second-ranking Republican, Senator John Thune of South Dakota, rose to object, saying the proposal was "not an effective way" to meet the needs of Americans.

That drew an angry tweet from Mr Trump, who said the state's Republican governor Kristi Noem should pose a primary challenge to Mr Thune, who faces a re-election battle.

But presidential tweets that once sparked fear in Republicans may be losing their punch.

Republican senator Lisa Murkowski told reporters she found it "very dispiriting at this time, New Year's Day, that the president would be working to pit Republicans against Republicans".

Mr Trump's last-minute demands threw Congress into a tumultuous year-end session that deepened the divide within the party between the GOP's new wing of Trump-styled populists wary of defying the president and what had been mainstay conservative views.

Senator Josh Hawley, who has pledged to lead Mr Trump's challenge to overturn the election during next week's session, was among those senators who also supported Mr Trump's push for Covid-19 aid.

Mr Hawley found himself in common cause with Senator Bernie Sanders, the independent from Vermont, who argued on Friday for a vote.

Virus Outbreak Congress
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (Susan Walsh/AP)

The influential Mr McConnell has shown little interest in Mr Trump's push to bolster the 600 dollar relief cheques just approved in a sweeping year-end package, declaring Congress had provided enough pandemic aid, for now.

He dismissed the proposal, as passed by the House, as "socialism for rich people" who did not need the federal help.

Mr McConnell proposed his own bill, loaded up with Mr Trump's other priorities to rein in big tech companies and investigate the 2020 presidential election. But it was not a serious effort, and he did not push it forward for a vote.

The refusal to act on the cheques, along with the veto of the defence bill, could very well be among Mr McConnell's final acts as majority leader as two GOP senators in Georgia are in the fights of their political lives in run-off elections next week that will determine which party controls the Senate.

The 81-13 vote in the Senate to pass the defence bill followed an earlier 322-87 override vote in the House of Representatives of the widely popular defence measure.

The bill provides a 3% pay rise for US troops and guides defence policy, cementing decisions about troop levels, new weapons systems and military readiness, personnel policy and other military goals.

Mr Trump rejected the defence measure last week, saying it failed to limit social media companies he claimed were biased against him during his failed re-election campaign.

He also opposed language that allows for the renaming of military bases that honour Confederate leaders.

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