Jan 1, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Congress overrides Trump's veto of defense spending bill

President Trump
Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Congress handed President Trump a rare blow on Friday when the Senate joined the House in voting to override his veto of the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Why it matters: The bipartisan New Year's Day legislative rebuke is the first veto override of Trump's presidency. It comes less than three weeks before Trump leaves office and underscores the popularity of the military legislation, passed each Congress since 1967, that includes increased pay for troops.

Context: Trump vetoed the bill on Dec. 23 because lawmakers did not include a repeal of liability protections for social media companies outlined in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act as he demanded.

  • He also opposed a part of the bill that would rename 10 military bases and assets currently named after Confederate leaders within three years.
  • The bill includes provisions that strengthen anti-discrimination protections for federal employees, and it allocates funding for countering China and improving national cybersecurity.
  • The House of Representatives voted 322-87 on Monday to overturn Trump's veto.
  • The Senate's vote was 81-13.

Between the lines: The override is also just days after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) defied Trump's call for increased coronavirus relief payments by effectively killing a House-approved standalone measure for $2,000 stimulus checks.

  • McConnell said he has no intention of splitting apart a broader package that combines the checks with Trump's demands for an election fraud commission and the repeal of Section 230 — two no-gos for Democrats.

What they're saying: Though multiple Republicans supported Trump's efforts to repeal Section 230 because of an alleged anti-conservative bias by tech companies, they also insisted it didn't make sense to tie the repeal to the NDAA.

  • "President [Trump] is right—Big Tech needs to be reined in and I will vote with the President when Section 230 reform is on the Senate floor," Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) tweeted during the vote.
  • "And while I vote today to fund America’s military—our first and last line of defense—I will also stand with the President to ensure we have the votes to reform Section 230 and keep social media companies accountable to the will of the people."

The other side: "Our Republican Senate just missed the opportunity to get rid of Section 230, which gives unlimited power to Big Tech companies Pathetic!!!," Trump tweeted on Friday.

  • "Now they want to give people ravaged by the China Virus $600, rather than the $2000 which they so desperately need. Not fair, or smart!"
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