- The Washington Times - Friday, December 11, 2020

The Senate on Friday passed the National Defense Authorization Act with a veto-proof majority following weeks of veto threats from President Trump over language to rename military bases that honor former Confederate leaders and lack of a provision to end legal protections for social media companies.

The massive, $740.5 billion legislation was approved by an 84-13 margin and needed a two-thirds majority to avoid a presidential veto, serving a major blow to Mr. Trump in his final weeks in office.

Thirteen Republicans voted against the bill that sets military spending levels, including Mike Braun of Indiana, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Five Democrats and one independent voted against the bill — Cory Booker of New Jersey, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Bernard Sanders of Vermont. The defense policy bill is historically passed with bipartisan support.

“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,” Sen. James Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said following the bill’s passage.

“It’s what the Constitution tells us we have to do. We must protect freedom, democracy and peace, and support our troops,” he continued.

Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, who serves as the top Democrat on the committee, called on Mr. Trump “to do the right thing and sign it into law.”

“If he insists on trying to use our troops as pawns in his war on social media companies it could needlessly disrupt military programs and operations,” he said in a statement. “If President Trump attempts to put his own narrow self-interest above the nation’s, then I hope Congress will override his veto.”

The final version of the NDAA includes a provision, sponsored by Ms. Warren, that requires the Pentagon to rename nearly a dozen military bases that honor former leaders of the Confederacy.

It also lacks language to repeal Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act that protects social media companies from being sued by anyone who feels wronged by content someone else has posted — whether their complaint is legitimate or not.

Mr. Trump cited both outcomes as reasons to reject the must-pass legislation.

A handful of key Republicans have rejected the White House’s demand, saying Sec. 230 is not something that should be included in a defense policy bill. As one of the few must-pass measures as the current Congress winds down, the NDAA has become a tempting target for other pet projects.

The defense bill includes a number of attractive features for lawmakers, including a 3% pay raise for troops, funding for new weapons systems, new policies to deter China and Russia, and increases in housing protections and standards for military families.

It rescinds Mr. Trump’s emergency declaration to obtain funding for the Mexican border wall, puts at least a temporary hold on plans to draw down more troops in Afghanistan, Germany and South Korea, and orders a Government Accounting Office study of U.S. backing for Saudi Arabia in Yemen’s civil war.

Mr. Trump has previously threatened to veto the defense policy legislation. But unlike this year, Republicans have quickly moved to strike a compromise with the president on his key criticisms.

The president has vetoed eight bills during his four years in office, and the 2021 NDAA marks the first time that Congress managed to assemble the two-thirds majority in each chamber needed to override him.

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