Dec 3, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Inhofe loudly sets Trump straight on defense bill

Senator Jim Inhofe sits in a Capitol subway car while speaking with reporters.
Sen. Jim Inhofe speaks with reporters in the Capitol last month. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) told President Trump on Wednesday he'll likely fail to get two big wishes in pending defense spending legislation, bellowing into his cellphone: "This is the only chance to get our bill passed," a source who overheard part of their conversation tells Axios.

Why it matters: Republicans are ready to test whether Trump's threats of vetoing the bill, which has passed every year for more than half a century, are empty.

The backstory: Inhofe leveled with Trump — over speakerphone while walking through the Senate's Russell Building — that the bill won't meet his demand to repeal liability protections for tech companies, or block efforts to re-title military bases named for Confederate figures.

  • The White House declined to comment. Inhofe's office did not respond to a request for comment.

What we're hearing: Inhofe, who is leading negotiations on the National Defense Authorization Act as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, addressed "Mr. President" before making his "only chance" comment during a midday call.

  • The source could not help but overhear the conversation due to the speakerphone's volume.

The backdrop: Many Republican lawmakers tell Axios that while the tech liability element, Section 230, needs to be reformed, it doesn't make sense to tie unrelated language to the NDAA.

  • Inhofe told reporters as much on Wednesday, but said the provision “has nothing to do with the military."
  • “You can’t do it in this bill,” Inhofe said, adding that he has relayed this to Trump.
  • Many also believe they have the votes to override a presidential veto, if necessary.
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) quote tweeted Trump's veto threats earlier today and wrote: "I will vote to override. Because it’s really not about you."

The bottom line: Members from both parties are eager to get this legislation passed so they can move onto a government spending bill, due by Dec. 11, and delivering coronavirus relief.

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