The Hill:

Twenty-four Republicans defied the president and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, by supporting a massive domestic-spending plan as part of the emergency war-spending bill. That included a $52 billion veterans’ education benefits package opposed by the White House that has become a flashpoint in the presidential campaign.

The 75-22 vote ensured the Senate could overcome a presidential veto on a $165 billion war-funding package tied with the domestic-spending initiatives, which also includes a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits and a delay of Medicaid rules.

Later in the day, 35 Republicans voted with 47 Democrats to override a presidential veto on a five-year farm bill, the second time a veto has been overturned in Bush’s presidency. McCain calls the farm subsidies in the bill wasteful.

The votes were an indication that maintaining GOP unity on hot-button issues might become more difficult with congressional Republicans sensing major losses in November.

“I think they get a little skittish,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) of his Republican colleagues.

“They’re scared, some of them, of ads, but they’ll have to answer for themselves,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), whose narrower GI bill with McCain did not get a vote Thursday.

When asked what the votes said about Bush’s influence on Capitol Hill, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) responded slyly: “What influence?”


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