President Donald Trump listens during a White House video conference call with military personnel on November 26, 2020.
Erin Schaff | The New York Times | Bloomberg | Getty Images
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Wednesday vetoed the comprehensive defense bill, which authorizes a $ 740 billion ceiling on spending and outlines Pentagon policy.
“Unfortunately, the law lacks critical national security measures, contains provisions that our veterans and our military history disregard, and contradicts my administration’s efforts to put America first in our national security and foreign policies,” Trump wrote in a long statement to Congress.
“It is a ‘gift’ to China and Russia,” added the president, without giving any specific details.
Earlier this month, the National Defense Authorization Act passed both Houses of Congress with veto-proof margins, meaning any veto by Trump would likely be overridden.
Congress must now vote again to override Trump. The house is expected to return from a vacation break on Monday, and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said his chamber would vote on lifting the veto on Tuesday.
This year’s 4,517-page defense law, which is usually passed with strong support from both parties and veto-proof majorities, finances America’s national security portfolio. It was legally signed for nearly six consecutive decades.
The passage of the law will at least secure pay increases for soldiers and keep important defense modernization programs going.
“Donald Trump has just vetoed a raise for our troops so he can defend dead Confederate traitors,” Senator Chuck Schumer wrote on Twitter, highlighting one of Trump’s problems with the must-pass defense law.
“The Democrats will vote for it,” added Schumer.
“Worryingly, Trump is using his final hours in office to sow chaos, including denying our service members a long overdue raise and risk levy; our families paid family vacations, childcare, shelter and health and our veterans the benefits they need and deserve.” House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi wrote in a statement.
“Next week, on December 28th, the House, with the support of both parties, will override the veto,” she wrote.
U.S. Marines and Sailors with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit stand in focus during a formation aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan.
Sgt. Austin Hazard | US Marine Corps
Other senior democratic lawmakers also criticized Trump.
“The Kremlin is actively attacking our cyber networks. Instead of advocating our national security, the president is playing down Russia’s involvement – which contradicts the US secret service – and has now only vetoed laws that contain actionable points we can hold Putin accountable for this kind of belligerent behavior, “Senator Jeanne Shaheen, DN.H., a senior member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, wrote in a statement.
“This is not about politics, this is about the security of the United States and the safety of our men and women in uniform,” added Shaheen.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Wrote in a statement that he was speechless following Trump’s decision to withhold signature on the NDAA.
“Immediately after what is possibly the most massive cyber attack in our country’s history, the President will remove the new instruments and authorities that we need for our country’s cyber defense,” wrote Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee.
“I urge Republican colleagues not just to speak up, but to stand up and look forward to a strong, bipartisan vote,” he added.
Trump’s ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, RS.C., wrote on Twitter that he would not vote to overturn the president’s veto. Graham didn’t vote for the bill for the first time.
Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, passed a law on December 15 that would end the protection of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act by January 1, 2023. Section 230 protects technology giants like Facebook and Twitter from being legally liable for what is published on their platforms.
Trump threatened to veto the mammoth defense law earlier this month if lawmakers failed to take action to remove Section 230.
He has repeatedly accused Twitter, his favorite social media platform, of unfairly censoring him.
Trump renewed the threat on Thursday.
In his message to Congress, Trump wrote that the NDAA “made no significant changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.” He called on Congress to lift the measure.
The president previously said the move posed a serious threat to US national security as well as electoral integrity, but gave no further explanation. Trump has also claimed that the bill is in favor of China.
The President’s problem with Section 230 came to light this summer after Twitter added warnings to several of its tweets that alleged mail-in polls were fraudulent. Trump has still not granted election as President-elect Joe Biden.
The NDAA in its current form does not include any Section 230 action.
Legislators on both sides of the aisle have pushed back Trump’s 11th hour demand, stating that the repeal of Section 230 is irrelevant to the passage of the Pentagon’s top bill.
“”[Section] 230 has nothing to do with the military, “James Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, R-Okla., Told reporters on December 2nd.” I agree with his views that we should get rid of 230 – but you can’t do it on this bill, “added Inhofe, an ally of Trump.
On the same day, John Thune, RS.D., the Senate majority whip said, “I don’t think the Defense Act is the place to sue the fight against Section 230,” according to The Hill.
Trump has also insisted that the Defense Spending Act include language that prevents military bases from being renamed to commemorate numbers from the Confederate era.
The Republican-led Senate Armed Forces Committee approved a ruling by Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. That summer urging the Pentagon to rename military assets named after symbols of the Confederation, the group of states made up of the United States separated and fought the union in civil war.
Trump rejected the idea in a multi-part Twitter post in June, claiming that the Confederate names of the bases have become part of the nation’s great “legacy”.
“It has been suggested that up to 10 of our legendary military bases be renamed, such as Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Benning in Georgia, etc. These monumental and very powerful bases are part of a great American heritage and a history of winning, victory and freedom, “wrote Trump on Twitter.
“The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES in these sacred fields and won two world wars. Therefore, my administration will not even consider renaming these great and fabulous military facilities,” the president wrote.
– CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger contributed to this report.
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