WASHINGTON – The Senate on Friday overrode President Donald Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) — the first congressional override in Trump’s tenure as president and a final rebuke of the president just weeks before he leaves office.
The House of Representatives on Monday voted 322-87 to override the president, a remarkable bipartisan condemnation of the president in divided Washington. The Senate voted 81-13 in favor of overriding Trump, and the NDAA will be enacted into law despite Trump’s disapproval.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged fellow Republicans to vote in favor of overriding Trump earlier this week.
“For the brave men and women of the United States armed forces, failure is not an option. So when it is our turn in Congress to have their backs, failure is not an option here either,” the Kentucky Republican said on the Senate floor. “I urge my colleagues to support this legislation one more time.”
The NDAA, a $741 billion national security package, will raise troops’ pay, direct the purchase of weapons and set military policies. It passed both the House and Senate with overwhelming support by both parties.
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Trump took issue mainly with two components of the legislation. Trump has previously said that he is against changing the names of bases named for Confederate military leaders, yet the bill addresses stripping names, symbols, displays, monuments and other paraphernalia that honors the Confederacy. It would establish a commission to study and develop a plan, its cost and the criteria for renaming bases such as the Army’s Forts Benning, Bragg, Hood and others.
Trump also criticized the legislation for not including language that would strip social media companies from the protections they enjoy under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The measure, adopted in 1996, prevents companies such as Twitter and Facebook from being sued by anyone claiming to be harmed by a post. The president, who claims social media companies are biased against conservatives, has said Section 230 is a threat to national security.
The bill also put limits on Trump’s ability to withdraw U.S. military troops from overseas, including Afghanistan and Germany, which similarly drew the president’s ire.
“I am returning, without my approval, H.R. 6395. … My Administration recognizes the importance of the Act to our national security. 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. It is a ‘gift’ to China and Russia,” the president wrote last week when vetoing the legislation.
Trump vetoed the legislation before Christmas after repeated threats and warnings he would not sign it into law. Despite his calls for Congress to reexamine the NDAA and make changes, it appears the Senate will ignore Trump. Trump has vetoed nine bills during his presidency but neither chamber in Congress had been able to muster two-thirds support needed to override him until now.
Contributing: Rebecca Morin