Congress, with bipartisan flashes of irritation, shrugs off Trump's defense bill veto threat

Peter Weber

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Wednesday that President Trump was "serious" about vetoing the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act if Congress doesn't include a repeal of Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, an unrelated measure that gives internet sites broad legal liability for content users post. "He is going to put the pressure on Congress to step up on this," she said. Congress indicated it wouldn't be pressured.

The popular legislation sets military policy for the year and includes measures like a pay raise for U.S. service members. It's one of two things Congress is intent on passing before adjourning for the year.

"230 has nothing to do with the military," Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said. "I agree with his sentiments, we ought to do away with 230 — but you can't do it in this bill." In a joint statement, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and the committee's top Republican, Rep. Mac Thornberry (Texas), said they "have toiled through almost 2,200 provisions to reach compromise" on this bill, and "the time has come" to pass it, as Congress and the White House have done "for 59 straight years."

Those were the polite responses. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told Trump via Twitter he would vote to override a veto "because it’s really not about you." Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Trump "seems intent on filling each of his remaining days in office with petulance, grievance, self-interest." One GOP lawmaker told Politico, "Republicans are sick of this sh-t."

The House and Senate passed their separate versions of the NDAA with veto-proof majorities over the summer, and the final bicameral compromise was being passed around Capitol Hill on Wednesday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is reportedly ready to bring it to the floor. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who typically freezes legislation if Trump threatens a veto, has not commented publicly.

There is bipartisan interest in at least amending Section 230, but only a few lawmakers — including Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) — backed Trump's lame-duck effort to "terminate" it via the NDAA. Congress already ignored Trump's first veto threat over this bill — the final version includes bipartisan language telling the Pentagon to rename 10 military bases named after Confederate generals. If Trump follows through with his veto threat over Section 230, it could prompt the first veto override of his presidency.

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