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Trump Vetoes National Defense Bill, Setting Up Override Vote

President Trump waves as he boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Md, December 12, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

President Trump vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday, sending the legislation back to the House.

The NDAA had been passed every year in some form for the past 59 years, and the current iteration allocates around $740 in defense spending as well as a 3 percent pay raise for American troops. Trump had threatened to veto the bill unless Congress also repealed Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and gave the president greater leeway to withdraw American troops stationed in Germany, South Korea, and Afghanistan.

Additionally, Trump opposed a provision in the NDAA that requires government to rename U.S. army bases named after figures in the Confederacy.

The bill “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,” Trump said in a statement.

Both the House and Senate passed the NDAA by veto-proof margins, with 84 senators voting in favor and roughly 80 percent of House lawmakers approving the legislation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) urged the president on Tuesday not to veto the bill, and scheduled a veto-override session for December 29 in case Trump made good on his threat.

Representatives Mac Thornberry (R., Texas) and Liz Cheney (R., Wyo.) were among supporters of the NDAA.

“We ought to pass the NDAA and the President should not veto it. And we should override it,” Cheney told CNN earlier in December.

Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) has been vocal in his opposition to the bill, saying it does not give Trump enough power to withdraw troops from foreign nations.

“They believe that a president has the power to go to war anywhere anytime,” Paul said of the NDAA’s supporters on December 10. “But when a president tries to remove troops, they say ‘Oh no no. What we really want are 535 generals in Congress to tell him he can’t leave a war.”

Trump’s veto comes less than 24 hours after he criticized an omnibus spending bill passed by Congress on Monday, including provisions for pandemic-related economic relief that were approved after months of delays. On Tuesday evening, Trump labeled the bill a “disgrace” and called for $2,000 stimulus checks for every American, up from the $600 checks currently mandated by the legislation.

The president has not clearly stated that he would veto the omnibus bill, but said the “next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package” unless Congress revises the legislation. A veto in this case would likely cause a federal government shutdown, and several jobless benefits enacted during the pandemic would not be renewed.

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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