Republicans in Congress Should Tell Trump Enough Is Enough

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President Donald Trump has, in effect, challenged Republicans in Congress to exert their independence and do the right thing for the country. His veto of a bipartisan $740 billion defense-policy bill is one such test. His demand that Congress rethink the Covid relief bill — also supported by big bipartisan majorities — is another. Republicans should have distanced themselves from such machinations long ago. In the remaining weeks of this presidency, the party in Congress should finally put the country’s welfare over the whims of their defeated leader.

The National Defense Authorization Act is critical to maintaining military readiness, and has been signed into law every year for nearly six decades. Among other things, the current legislation will allow the Pentagon to purchase 93 F-35 fighter jets and upgrade its fleet of submarines, provide funding for the military’s pandemic relief efforts, and increase bonuses for troops serving in combat zones. Overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress recently approved the bill.

For months, Trump has threatened to veto the bill over measures that would ban military bases from being named for members of the Confederacy. More recently, he’s insisted that the legislation should remove the shield that protects companies from liability for user-generated content online — a policy that, whatever its merits, has nothing to do with military spending.

Congress will decide next week whether to override the veto. Based on the previous votes, there should be more than enough support to do so. Trump will doubtless use the occasion to test Republicans’ fealty. Senate Republican leaders, in particular, fear that defying the president may antagonize his supporters and hurt the party’s chances of winning the runoff elections for Georgia’s two Senate seats. They’d do well to reflect on the way Trump has rewarded their loyalty up to this point — and vote to override his veto despite the risk.

The same goes if Trump should veto the Covid relief bill, as he’s suggesting he might. That’s despite months of delay in getting this vital measure approved, the pressing need for action, the support of his Treasury secretary for the compromise measure, and Trump’s own earlier indications that he approved of the plan he’s now decided to denounce.

This president is consistent, at least, in one thing. His message to supposed allies in Congress never deviates: “You owe me unquestioning loyalty, and I will humiliate you in return.” In this, the Republican Party has been an unforgivably slow learner.

Editorials are written by the Bloomberg Opinion editorial board.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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