Congress votes to override Trump’s veto of annual defense authorization bill

By: - January 4, 2021 12:30 am

The U.S. Capitol Building. Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on Friday in an 81-13 vote joined the House in overriding President Donald Trump’s veto of a $740 billion defense policy bill, the first veto override of Trump’s tenure.

That means the annual defense policy measure will become law despite Trump’s opposition. The House on Monday had voted 322-87 to override the veto. A two-thirds majority was required in each chamber.

The National Defense Authorization Act, a wide-ranging measure that includes pay raises for soldiers and defense modernization programs, initially passed both chambers of Congress with overwhelming, veto-proof majorities.

But Trump had signaled that he would veto the bill for several reasons, including that it did not repeal what’s known as Section 230, which shields internet and social-media companies from liability for content posted on their websites. He also opposed a provision to rename military installations named for Confederate generals.

The Republican-controlled Senate had easily passed the bill initially on a 84-13 vote.

“For 60 years in a row, the NDAA has provided necessary support for our troops and national security,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who supported the override, said in a statement. “Today’s vote sent a clear message that Congress will not allow President Trump to stand in the way of that support, and I’m relieved the critical bipartisan priorities we fought for will become law.”

On Friday, the senators who voted against the override were Republicans Mike Braun of Indiana, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky. Democrats were Cory Booker of New Jersey, Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Ron Wyden of Oregon. Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont also voted no.

Not voting were Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, both in the last days before a runoff election set for Tuesday, as well as Cory Gardner of Colorado, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Ben Sasse of Nebraska. Democrat Doug Jones of Alabama also did not vote.

On Monday, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said that Trump vetoed the measure “because of something that isn’t in the bill and was never going to be in the bill, something totally unrelated to national security and something that we were not going to do in any event.”

Monday’s override vote in the Democratic-controlled House was widely bipartisan and only slightly narrower than the initial 335-to-78 vote. Some GOP lawmakers who initially supported the defense bill, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), did not support the override, though 109 Republicans voted with Democrats to approve it.

“I continue to support this bill, as more than 80 percent of the House did just 20 days ago,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee. “It’s the exact same bill. Not a comma has changed.”

Thornberry added that Trump “exercised his constitutional prerogative” in vetoing the measure, but urged lawmakers to “put the best interests of the country first.”

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, tweeted after Trump’s veto that the defense bill should become law, and that another measure can be used to address liability concerns related to Section 230.

“The NDAA has become law every year for 59 years straight because it’s absolutely vital to our national security and our troops,” Inhofe wrote. “This year must not be an exception. Our men and women who volunteer to wear the uniform shouldn’t be denied what they need — ever.”



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Laura Olson
Laura Olson

Laura covers the nation's capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom, a network of nonprofit outlets that includes Ohio Capital Journal. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections, and campaign finance.