In an apparent break from the Republican Party, President Donald Trump vetoes the $740 billion defense bill for 2021. The National Defense Authorization Act hurdled both the House and the Senate with veto-proof margins. According to Senate rules, a vetoed bill can still become law if two-thirds of the members voting in the House and the Senate each agree to pass it over the President's objection.
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The 4,517-page National Defense Authorization Act funds America’s national security efforts.
For over 60 years, it received approvals without so much as any opposition. This year’s edition passed via the usual strong bipartisan support featuring overwhelming, veto-proof majorities. So, the fact that Trump vetoes the bill stood out as an aberration.
Act Fails in Many Ways
In a statement to Congress, Trump decried the bill’s contents. “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,” he declared.
Trump also alluded to the bill as “a gift to China and Russia.” He earlier tweeted on December 17 that “I will Veto the Defense Bill, which will make China very unhappy. They love it. Must have Section 230 termination, protect our National Monuments and allow for removal of the military from far away, and very unappreciative, lands. Thank you!” Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act refers to liability protections for social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. The measures protect these companies from lawsuits from damages caused by content posted on their sites.
Democrats Up in Arms
As expected, Democrats are up in arms over the President’s refusal to sign the Defense bill into law. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) tweeted his disgust. He wrote, “Donald Trump just vetoed a pay raise for our troops so he can defend dead Confederate traitors.” Trump earlier voiced opposition to measures renaming bases named after Confederate leaders. Schumer vowed to overrule the veto through Congressional votes. “Democrats will vote to override it,” he promised.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca), also expressed her dismay in the veto. She issued a statement that said “Disturbingly, Trump is using his final hours in the office to sow chaos. She added that the veto takes away from “servicemembers a long-overdue pay raise and hazard duty pay; our families paid family leaves, child care, housing, and health protection; and our veterans the benefits that they need and deserve.” She also promised that by “next week, December 28, the House will take up the veto override with bipartisan support.”.
Republicans Also Expressed Disappointment
Earlier on the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell remained unfazed. He said his intention “is to ensure the Senate continues fulfilling our obligation to the men and women of our armed forces. I hope the president will not veto this bill.” Since it did happen, McConnel made preparations for Trump's vetoes immediately. He worked out a deal with Schumer for a December 29 session to vote on the bill. “In the event that President Trump does elect to veto this bipartisan bill, it appears the House may choose to return after the holidays to set up a vote to consider the veto,” he added. “In the event that the president has vetoed the bill, and the House has voted to override the veto, the Senate would have the opportunity to process a veto override at that time.”
Meantime, House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (Wy) also defended the NDAA. She said it already included strong provisions to counter both Russia and China. She hoped that Congress “must ensure this bill becomes law.” Cheney added that “failing to pass the NDAA will have dire consequences for our national security.”
Opposition to Certain Passages
Also, Trump opposes the renaming of military bases named after Confederate leaders. As early as June, Trump already made his position known about the matter. In a series of tweets during that period, Trump said “It has been suggested that we should rename as many as 10 of our Legendary Military Bases, such as Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Benning in Georgia, etc. These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom,” Trump said.
“The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars. Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations. Our history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with. Respect our Military!,” he emphasized.
Get The Troops Home
In addition, Trump said that the NDAA works against a major administration foreign policy goal: getting US troops home. He said the bill works counter to that goal. Also, he noted that it's ‘unconstitutional” that the bill supersedes his authority as commander-in-chief. “I oppose endless wars, as does the American public. Over bipartisan objections, however, this Act purports to restrict the President's ability to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, Germany, and South Korea,” Trump remarked.
Watch the CNBC News video where CNBC's Kayla Tausche reports that President Trump has vetoed the massive National Defense Authorization Act:
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