Trump Vetoes Key Defense Bill, Setting Up Showdown With Congress

Date: 2020-12-23 21:20:52


President Donald Trump on Wednesday vetoed the $740.5 billion U.S. defense policy bill, setting up a clash with Congress, which is poised to override him for the first time.

“Unfortunately, the Act fails to include critical national security measures, includes provisions that fail to respect our veterans and our military’s history, and contradicts efforts by my Administration to put America first in our national security and foreign policy actions,” Trump said in a statement.

He called the bill a “gift” to China and Russia.

House and Senate members have already been notified that they might be called back to Washington next week to override Trump’s veto. The bill passed both chambers with enough support to reach the two-thirds threshold to overrule Trump, although some members could change their votes.

Trump wanted to attach to the defense measure an unrelated provision to eliminate Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects technology companies from liability for most content published by their users. He repeatedly tweeted veto warnings if Congress did not make that part of the annual legislation.

Trump had also threatened to veto the bill because it contained a provision for renaming military installations that honor Confederate generals.

The Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jim Inhofe, said the defense bill is “vital to our national security and our troops.” Inhofe said Trump’s complaints about technology liability could be addressed in different legislation.

“Our men and women who volunteer to wear the uniform shouldn’t be denied what they need— ever,” the Oklahoma Republican said in a statement shortly after Trump vetoed the bill. “I hope all of my colleagues in Congress will join me in making sure our troops have the resources and equipment they need to defend this nation.”

The president and others on the right have long accused social media platforms of censoring conservatives, something that the technology giants deny. While lawmakers from both parties have called for modifying or even eliminating Section 230, even Trump allies said it was the wrong place and the wrong time to wage that battle.

“I look forward to overriding the President’s fruitless and ridiculous attempt to undermine our national security over his shifting rationale for his decision to veto, including a provision to rename bases honoring Confederate military leaders – a provision that many in the President’s own party have supported,” Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Deomcrat and vice chairman of the intelligence committee, said in a statement.

The lopsided margins to pass the bill earlier this month underscored the broad bipartisan support for the National Defense Authorization Act and indicated that Trump, in the closing days of his administration, had lost clout with congressional Republicans.

Even so, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, said he would “not vote against the president’s veto” even though he had voted for the bill.

Inhofe earlier called the defense measure “the most important bill of the year.”

“In voting against it, you have to stop and think about those kids that are out there in harm’s way and the threats that they are facing on a regular basis,” Inhofe said on the Senate floor Friday. “This is a serious thing that’s out there, and I can’t imagine wanting to have to face these people in the field, in harm’s way and say, well, we didn’t pass a defense authorization bill.”

The bill would authorize $732 billion in discretionary spending for national defense, including $69 billion for overseas contingency operations. It also authorizes funding for 93 F-35 fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin Corp. after the Trump administration requested 79.

It also would back funding for the construction of two Virginia-class submarines a year, after the administration originally requested funding for only one to free up money for nuclear deterrence. It would provides contract authority for as many as two nuclear Columbia-class submarines made by General Dynamics Corp.

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