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 runs counter to my administration’s efforts to put America first in our national security and foreign policy,” 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 slated to return from the holidays on Monday, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said his chamber would vote to lift 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 decades in a row.
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.
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
Trump has cited a variety of reasons for opposing the mammoth defense law.
Earlier this month, he threatened a veto if lawmakers failed to remove section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects tech giants like Facebook and Twitter from legal liability for what is posted on their platforms.
Trump has repeatedly accused Twitter, his favorite social media platform, of unfairly censoring him.
Trump renewed the threat last week.
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 conceded the election of 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 request after eleven hours, 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 earlier this month.” 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.
Similarly, John Thune, RS.D., the Senate majority whip, said earlier this month, “I don’t think the Defense Act is the place to litigate the fight against Section 230,” The Hill said.
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-tweet post in June, claiming 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.