Perdue, Loeffler absent from Senate vote to override Trump veto of defense bill

11/20/2020 -  Gainesville, Georgia  U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler (right) and Senator David Perdue (left) greet the crowd gathered at a Defend the Majority Republican Rally in Gainesville, Ga., Friday, November 20, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
11/20/2020 - Gainesville, Georgia U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler (right) and Senator David Perdue (left) greet the crowd gathered at a Defend the Majority Republican Rally in Gainesville, Ga., Friday, November 20, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Neither of Georgia’s U.S. senators traveled to Washington on Friday to take part in a bipartisan vote to override President Donald Trump’s veto of an annual military spending bill, sidestepping a thorny issue days ahead of the critical runoffs.

If Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue had voted with the majority on the legislation, the first veto override of Trump’s presidency, they might have angered him before his Monday rally in Dalton. Shortly after the vote, the president blasted Senate Republicans as “pathetic.”

And if the two Republicans had voted against the override, they would have faced accusations that they put partisan politics over Georgia’s soldiers and veterans against the backdrop of looming runoffs to decide control of the U.S. Senate.

Perdue and Loeffler were among six senators who missed the vote; the final tally was 81-13. The House had already approved the override, meaning the National Defense Authorization Act will become law despite the president’s objections.

Perdue’s absence was expected. He announced Thursday that he and his wife were quarantining after coming in close contact with a staffer who tested positive for COVID-19.

Loeffler’s aides did not respond to questions about why she missed the vote or her stance on the issue. Although she is in the final days of campaigning in Georgia, she owns a private jet and has adjusted her schedule in the past to accommodate trips to Washington.

In recent days, both senators have avoided questions about how they would vote on the veto override as the runoffs against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock near.

“Look, right now my focus is on winning this race on January 5 because the future of the country is at stake here,” Loeffler said after a campaign event in Woodstock Tuesday.

“And I’m going to continue to fight for our men and women in law enforcement in the military, and to continue to fight for hardworking Georgia’s to make sure that they have the relief they have and that we reopen this economy.”

Perdue’s refused to comment on the issue for days.

Both Loeffler and Perdue voted in favor of the N.D.A.A. when it was initially approved by the Senate last month. But they also said they had misgivings with the law, which Trump vetoed in part because it didn’t include the repeal of a legal shield for social media companies.

In addition to giving troops a 3% pay raise and funding resources at bases across Georgia, the measure includes a provision that will begin the process of renaming Georgia’s Fort Gordon and Fort Benning, as well as other bases that are named after Confederate leaders. Trump, Loeffler and Perdue all said they did not approve of this clause.

A spokesman for the Democratic Party of Georgia criticized Loeffler for missing the vote without explanation.

“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,” Alex Floyd said. “By skipping this vote for Georgia military families, Senator Loeffler is once again showing Georgians where her priorities lie in Washington.”

Staff writer Patricia Murphy contributed to this report.

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