Live politics updates: Several prominent Republican senators skip NDAA vote – USA TODAY

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This week, USA TODAY Politics focuses on the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, his remaining Cabinet picks, the Senate runoff in Georgia, and certification of the Electoral College vote.

Dates to watch:

  • Jan. 3: New Congress is sworn in.
  • Jan. 5: Senate runoff election in Georgia.
  • Jan. 6: Congress will count and certify the electoral results in a joint session.
  • Jan. 20: Inauguration of Biden, who will take the oath of office.

Be sure to refresh this page often to get the latest information on the transition.

Several prominent GOP senators skip NDAA vote

The Senate voted to override President Donald Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Friday, the first congressional override of Trump’s presidency and a final rebuke just weeks before he leaves office.

Several prominent, pro-military GOP senators skipped the vote, including Georgia Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who face runoff elections on Tuesday. The outcomes of those races will determine which party controls the upper chamber of Congress.

Perdue is currently quarantining after possible exposure to COVID-19.

“Senator Kelly Loeffler is so afraid of disagreeing with President Trump that she’d rather skip work and decline to support Georgia’s military families than vote against Trump’s reckless veto,” said Alex Floyd, spokesman for the Democratic Party of Georgia. “By skipping this vote for Georgia military families, Senator Loeffler is once again showing Georgians where her priorities lie in Washington.”

Additionally, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who is a vocal supporter of Trump on Capitol Hill, skipped the vote. He had posted on Twitter last week he would not vote to override the president’s veto, and did not vote for the bill the first time.

— Savannah Behrmann

More than 100 Republicans may object to election certification

Republican Rep.-elect Byron Donalds said Thursday that he will object to the certification process for making the results of the 2020 presidential election official.

Donalds released a statement through social media that he “cannot in good faith vote to support the certification of the Electoral College results on Jan. 6.”

The future Florida congressman joins a growing list of Republican lawmakers who have vowed to object to the final vote count, which awarded President-elect Joe Biden with 306 electoral votes to President Donald Trump’s 232. The effort to challenge the Electoral College result is certain to fail and comes even though no evidence of widespread fraud has been presented in any of the Trump campaign’s myriad election lawsuits, nor was any such evidence found in reviews by the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security. 

CNN reported Thursday that Donalds could be joined in objecting to the result by as many as 140 of his Republican colleagues in the House. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said on the “The Bulwark Podcast” that he expects at least 100 GOP members of Congress to join the effort, which he called “the undermining of democracy.” 

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is the lone Republican senator to announce he also plans to object to the vote count, which would force a debate and a vote on the objection. Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who tried to keep his members from joining House Republicans’ objection, said in a conference call that he considers the upcoming vote to certify the election “the most consequential I have ever cast” in a 36-year Senate career, Axios reported.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 12, 2020.

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., sharply denounced the “institutional arsonist members of Congress who will object to the Electoral College vote,” warning they were “playing with fire.” 

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence has asked a federal judge to reject a lawsuit filed by a group of Republicans led by Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, who want to put the authority to overturn the election in the hands of the vice president.

– William Cummings, USA TODAY; Bill Smith, Fort Myers News-Press

How climate change is factoring into Georgia Senate runoff

Climate and sea level rise haven’t been a major focus of either Georgia runoff race ahead of the Jan. 5 election that could determine control of the U.S. Senate.

With Georgia’s main population center about four hours from the beach, climate change and sea level rise remain backburner issues for many Georgia politicians, but Georgia has seen 10 inches of sea level rise since 1935 and scientists predict another 1 to 6 feet before 2100. 

Even though Sen. David Perdue owns a $1.3 million home near the water on exclusive Sea Island, the sitting senator’s campaign website doesn’t mention climate change. He earned a lifetime score of 3% from the League of Conservation Voters based on his voting record. 

Perdue’s Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff said he sees climate change as a “direct threat to prosperity and health on Georgia’s coast,” though he does not support the Green New Deal. 

The Rev. Raphael Warnock, running against Sen. Kelly Loeffler, has also not endorsed the Green New Deal but sees a need to act on climate change issues, especially in coastal cities like Savannah, where he grew up. 

Loeffler, who often pivots to “clean” air and water and to the economy when asked about climate change, has cited her support of the Great American Outdoors Act as evidence of action she’s taken to address the problem. The bill, which passed with bipartisan support that included every Democratic senator, is considered a victory for the environment, mainly for the funding it provides to restore and maintain national parks and other federal lands. 

– Mary Landers, Savannah Morning News 

Trump extends visa ban; court clears health insurance rule

Trump on Thursday extended pandemic-related bans on green cards and work visas to large groups of applicants through March 31, while a federal appeals court sided with him on a rule that requires new immigrants to have their own health insurance.

The twin developments on the final day of 2020 encapsulated how Trump has made U.S. immigration policy more restrictive without support from Congress. Biden has promised to undo many of Trump’s actions, but it is unclear how quickly and even to what extent.

Federal judges have limited the impact of the pandemic-related visa bans, which were set to expire Thursday. Biden, who is now forced to decide when and whether to lift them after taking office Jan. 20, doesn’t specifically address the issue in his immigration platform.

Biden also doesn’t directly address the health-insurance requirement in his platform. A lawyer who sued over the policy on Thursday urged him to immediately rescind the requirement.

In its ruling issued Thursday, a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel voted 2-1 to clear the way for Trump’s requirement that immigrants have health insurance. New immigrants must demonstrate they can obtain coverage within 30 days and pay their medical expenses. A federal judge blocked the rule from taking effect almost immediately after it was announced in October 2019.

– Elliot Spagat, The Associated Press

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