President Donald Trump on Wednesday vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act, a $741 billion national security package that would raise troops' pay, direct the purchase of weapons and set military policies because it does not include provisions that he wanted.
The move is unlikely to stop the NDAA from being enacted. The Senate passed the bill 84-13, well past the two-thirds necessary to veto-proof legislation. The House also passed the bill overwhelmingly. The bill is expected to retain veto-proof support in the wake of Trump's decision.
"I am returning, without my approval, H.R. 6395. ... My Administration recognizes the importance of the Act to our national security. Unfortunately, the Act fails to include critical national security measures, includes provisions that fail to respect our veterans and our military's history, and contradicts efforts by my Administration to put America first in our national security and foreign policy actions. It is a 'gift' to China and Russia," the president wrote.
Trump had tweeted his intention to veto multiple times.
I will Veto the Defense Bill, which will make China very unhappy. They love it. Must have Section 230 termination, protect our National Monuments and allow for removal of military from far away, and very unappreciative, lands. Thank you! https://t.co/9rI08S5ofO
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 17, 2020
The president denounced the legislation for not including language that would strip social media companies from the protections they enjoy under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The measure, adopted in 1996, prevents companies such as Twitter and Facebook from being sued by anyone claiming to be harmed by a post. Trump, who claims social media companies are biased against conservatives, has said Section 230 is a threat to national security.
Trump also denounced provisions in the bill that would remove the names of Confederate leaders from 10 military installations. Trump opposes renaming the bases.
In a statement, the White House said the bill "restricts the President’s ability to preserve our Nation’s security by arbitrarily limiting the amount of military construction funds that can be used to respond to a national emergency" and that it "purports to restrict the President’s ability to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, Germany, and South Korea" where the U.S. is involved in "forever wars."
The final version of the bill was opposed by seven Republicans, five Democrats and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, denounced the president's veto, calling it "an act of staggering recklessness that harms our troops, endangers our security and undermines the will of the bipartisan Congress."
Pelosi said the decision to reject the measure was especially troubling given that the country was just targeted by a massive cyberattack that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was likely Russia's doing.
"Disturbingly, Trump is using his final hours in office to sow chaos, including by denying our servicemembers a long-overdue pay raise and hazard duty pay; our families paid family leave, child care, housing and health protections; and our veterans the benefits that they need and deserve," Pelosi said.
The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., called the bill essential legislation to protect the nation after it passed last week.
“There isn’t much that happens around Capitol Hill with the kind of track record that the National Defense Authorization Act has, but there’s a reason this bill gets done every single year for the last 59 years: It’s the most important bill we’ll do all year,” Inhofe said in a statement. “It’s what the Constitution tells us we have to do. We must protect freedom, democracy and peace, and support our troops."
The bill directs $635.5 billion to the Pentagon budget and $26.6 billion to nuclear programs under the Energy Department. An additional $69 billion is set aside for "Overseas Contingency Operations," which pays for the war in Afghanistan and counter-ISIS missions in the Middle East.
The bill also includes a 3% pay raise for troops, as well as paid family leave and increased anti-discrimination protections for federal employees. The final version allocates $2.2 billion for a new Pacific Deterrence Initiative focused on checking China in the Pacific region.
The legislation addresses stripping names, symbols, displays, monuments and other paraphernalia that honors the Confederacy. It would establish a commission to study and develop a plan, its cost and the criteria for renaming bases such as the Army's Forts Benning, Bragg, Hood and others.
Combat veterans and Sens. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, also co-wrote a provision in the military spending bill that would direct the armed services to coordinate their efforts to equip women troops with proper-fitting body armor and to track data on injuries caused by poor-fitting gear.
"Having served in military uniform for 23 years, I strongly believe we have an obligation to our troops to provide them with equipment that fits and is usable, regardless if they’re male or female," Ernst said in a statement. "Through this year’s defense bill, I’m holding the Pentagon accountable for making sure our female service members have body armor and personal protective equipment that fits."
Women have been able to serve in combat roles since 2015, yet efforts to get them appropriate armor have been uneven.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump vetoes national defense bill; Congress has votes to override