Senate Joins House in Overriding Trump Veto of FY2021 Defense Authorization Bill

Senate Joins House in Overriding Trump Veto of FY2021 Defense Authorization Bill

On this first day of 2021, the Senate joined the House in overriding President Trump’s veto of the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  As in the House, the vote was overwhelming.

Trump has vetoed nine bills or resolutions including this one, H.R. 6395.  This is the first time Congress has overridden one.

The Senate vote was 81-13.  The House voted to override on Monday, December 27, by a wide margin as well: 322-87.

In the House, 290 votes were needed; in the Senate, 67.  The strong support of the bill “objections of the President to the contrary notwithstanding” by both Republicans and Democrats underscores the NDAA’s importance to the country’s national security. Leaders of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees (SASC and HASC) from both parties implored the President not to veto it.  He did nonetheless, putting Republicans in a difficult position of having to choose between supporting national defense or their President.

Trump’s veto message listed a number of objections, but the real points of contention are that it requires DOD to rename military installations now named in honor of Confederate soldiers, and does not repeal an unrelated section of law, Sec. 230 of the Communications Decency Act, that protects Internet companies from liability for content posted by third parties.

SASC Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK), one of Trump’s strongest supporters in the Senate, agrees with Trump on both issues, but insists the base-renaming requirement is no reason to sacrifice the entire NDAA and the Section 230 repeal has nothing to do with this piece of legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-KY), another Trump ally on most matters, made it clear he would vote to override the veto and finish action before the 116th Congress ends on Sunday, January 3, 2021, at noon. Any legislation not enacted before the end of one Congress dies and efforts must begin anew in the next Congress.

Just before today’s vote, he reiterated his position: “We’ve passed this legislation 59 years in a row and one way or another we’re going to complete the 60th annual NDAA and pass it into law before this Congress concludes on Sunday.”

As McConnell noted, this is the 60th year in a row Congress has gotten the NDAA across the finish line, but it is the first time without a president’s signature on it.

Trump vetoed the bill at the last possible moment, on December 23, the 10th of the 10 days he had to make a decision, pushing this final action to the very end of 2020 and the first day of the New Year.

Trump’s surprising announcement last week that he wanted to increase direct payments to individuals from $600 to $2,000 for COVID-19 relief after his representatives and congressional Republicans had forced Democrats to agree to the $600, has complicated these last days of the 116th Congress.

The veto override in the Senate got wrapped up with efforts by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) to get a Senate vote on a House-passed bill to agree with Trump and increase the payments to $2,000. This NDAA override vote was not expected until tomorrow, but agreement obviously was made to hold it this afternoon instead, giving Senators a one-day break tomorrow before the 117th Congress convenes on Sunday.

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