Trump vetoes defense bill

By Tony Bertuca / December 23, 2020 at 3:35 PM

(Editor's Note: This has been updated with statements from lawmakers.)

President Trump has vetoed the $740.5 billion defense authorization bill, positioning himself to possibly be overridden by Congress shortly before he leaves office.

The 4,500-page bill has already passed the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities, though it is possible some Republicans would be unwilling to buck the lame-duck president and could change their votes. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who has already voted for the bill, has said he does not plan to override the president.

The House plans to return from its holiday break Dec. 28 and vote to override Trump's veto, while the Senate is slated to return Dec. 29. Lawmakers were originally due back Jan. 3.

In a statement to Congress, Trump said he is vetoing the bill because it includes a provision to rename U.S. military bases that honor Confederate leaders and does not repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act used to limit liability of social media companies.

Trump also cited provisions in the bill that he said would restrict his ability to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, Germany and South Korea.

“I will not approve this bill, which would put the interests of the Washington, D.C. establishment over those of the American people,” Trump said.

The bill has been signed into law for 59 consecutive years. Lawmakers from both parties, meanwhile, have warned it would be nearly impossible to resurrect the bill in January as a new Congress will be seated, and the committee consideration process would need to be repeated.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK), a key Trump ally on Capitol Hill, released a statement praising the president for his past support for military spending and urged Congress to act to ensure U.S. troops have what they need. However, he did not explicitly call for an override.

“Our men and women who volunteer to wear the uniform shouldn’t be denied what they need -- ever,” Inhofe said. “This [bill] cements all the remarkable gains our military has made thanks to President Trump’s leadership and sends a strong message of support to our service members and their families. I hope all of my colleagues in Congress will join me in making sure our troops have the resources and equipment they need to defend this nation. We can and should use another legislative vehicle to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act -- a priority the president and I share.”

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) struck a much different tone.

“The FY-21 [defense authorization bill] passed with overwhelming, veto-proof support in both the House and Senate, and I remain confident that Congress will override this harmful veto,” he said in a statement. “While the president may not care about our service members and their families, Congress still places an immense value on their service and sacrifice.”

Aerospace Industries Association President and CEO Eric Fanning released a statement urging Congress to override the president.

“The president’s veto undermines our national security preparedness and jeopardizes the jobs of Americans who make up our defense industrial base at a time when the country is in crisis,” Fanning said. “It is also a letdown for our troops and their families, both of who selflessly continue to serve our country. We urge Congress to prioritize national security and override this veto.”

Meanwhile, Trump has also thrown a massive, end-of-year spending bill into limbo, saying the COVID-19 relief package it contains should provide a more generous stimulus for individuals.

But Trump has not yet threatened to veto the spending bill, which he has until Dec. 28 to sign.