Shutdown, impeachment, virus: Chaotic Congress winds down

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., walks off of the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON – Congress is ending a chaotic session, a two-year political firestorm that started with the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history, was riven by impeachment and a pandemic, and now closes with a rare rebuff by Republicans of President Donald Trump.

In the few days remaining, GOP senators are ignoring Trump's demand to increase COVID-19 aid checks to $2,000 and are poised to override his veto of a major defense bill, asserting traditional Republican spending and security priorities in defiance of a president who has marched the party in a different direction.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a top Trump ally, tried to bridge the divide Thursday, saying Congress could try again to approve Trump's push for bigger COVID aid checks in the new session, which opens Sunday.

“I am with President Trump on this," Graham said on Fox News.

“Our economy is really hurting here,” he said. "There’s no way to get a vote by Jan. 3. The new Congress begins noon Jan. 3. So the new Congress, you could get a vote.’’

As the Senate grinds through the New Year's holiday, the one-two rebuke of Trump's demands punctuates the president’s final days and deepen the divide between the Republican Party's new wing of Trump-styled populists and what had been mainstay conservative views.

The stalemate is expected to drag into the weekend.

An exasperated Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said this week, “After all the insanity that Senate Republicans have tolerated from President Trump — his attacks on the rule of law, an independent judiciary, the conduct that led to his impeachment — is this where Senate Republicans are going to draw the line — $2,000 checks to the American people?”