WASHINGTON – The House on Tuesday passed by an overwhelming majority a $ 741 billion defense policy bill that would require Confederate names to be removed from U.S. military bases, defying President Trump’s veto threat and bringing lawmakers closer together of a possible confrontation during his last weeks in power.
The bipartisan vote 335-78 to approve legislation that allows pay increases for U.S. troops reflected optimism among lawmakers from both parties that Congress would be able to force the bill to pass over Mr. Trump, in what would be his presidency’s first veto. The margin has exceeded the two-thirds majority that the House and Senate would need to muster to do so.
“Today the House sent a strong bipartisan message to the American people: Our military and our national security are more important than politics,” said Representative Adam Smith, Democrat from Washington and Chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
Congress has successfully passed the military bill every year for 60 years, with lawmakers on both sides enjoying the opportunity to project their strength on national security issues and support for the military. But Mr Trump’s objections have threatened to overturn that tradition, as he has warned since the summer that he will veto the bill.
He did so early on during tenure – largely backed by lawmakers from both parties in both chambers, as well as in the Pentagon – that the Defense Department strip the names of Confederate figures from military bases. More recently, Mr. Trump has shifted the focus of his threat, demanding that the bill include an independent repeal of a legal shield for social media companies.
“I hope House Republicans vote against the very weak National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which I will do VETO,” Mr Trump written on twitter Tuesday in the hours preceding the vote. “Must include the termination of Section 230 (for national security purposes), preserve our national monuments, and allow 5G and troop reduction in foreign countries!”
All but 40 Republicans – many of whom oppose the defense bill every year – have ignored the call. Mr. Trump’s belated demand to include the drastic rollback of legal protections for social media companies in the military bill has divided his party. Some Republican leaders have publicly described the move as untenable and privately called it unreasonable.
Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has said he will try to override a veto and privately pressured the president to support the bill. But while Representative Kevin McCarthy, California Republican and Minority Leader, said on Tuesday he would support the measure, he told reporters he would not vote to overturn a possible veto, suggesting that members of the own President’s party should not adhere to such a measure. effort.
“Section 230 needs to be done,” McCarthy said, referring to the repeal of legal liability for social media companies.
Senior lawmakers running the legislation have hoped that mustering a veto-proof majority in its favor would prompt Mr. Trump to sign the bill. But they privately admitted that the president’s mercurial nature made it difficult to predict what he might do.
The sheer willingness of Republican leaders to mow down Mr. Trump’s objections – after working for weeks to try to accommodate them – was a radical departure from the deference the president normally received on Capitol Hill from his own party. It underscored lawmakers’ impatience with Mr. Trump’s attempt to derail the national security measure over a social media provision that has nothing to do with it.
“Important as this issue is, it falls outside the purview of this bill and deserves its own domain and a separate vote,” said Rep. Don Bacon, Republican of Nebraska and member of the Armed Services Committee. “Do you think you’ll get a better bill in two months? The answer is no.”
The legislation contains a number of uncontroversial bipartisan measures, including new benefits for tens of thousands of Vietnam-era veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange, a 3% pay rise for military and an increase in the incentive compensation for dangerous rights.
But it also includes a series of measures pushed by Democrats that were expressly aimed at curbing some of the impulses Mr. Trump displayed during his tenure. A Democrat, Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, voted present.
The bill would take steps to slow or block Mr. Trump’s planned withdrawal of US troops from Germany and Afghanistan, and make it more difficult for the president to deploy military personnel to the southern border. Lawmakers also included language that would require the president to impose new sanctions on Turkey for its purchase of a Russian anti-aircraft missile system, a step Trump was reluctant to take despite urging lawmakers on both sides.
The legislation also directly addresses the racial justice protests spurred over the summer by the murder of black Americans, including George Floyd, at the hands of police. All federal crowd control agents at protests and demonstrations should identify themselves and their agencies. And it contains the bipartisan measure that orders the Pentagon to begin the process of renaming military bases to the names of Confederate leaders, a provision Democrats fought to keep in the bill.
“We cannot ask the young women and men of service of today to defend our nation, while housing and training them and their families on bases honoring those who betrayed our country in order to enslave them. others, ”said Rep. Anthony G. Brown, Democrat of Maryland, and one of the authors of the provision. “America’s proudest accomplishments are defined by men and women who expanded the promise of freedom. This is history and these are the people we need to honor.
The bill is expected to be considered this week in the Senate, where it is expected to pass by an overwhelming majority before being sent to the president’s office.
If Mr. Trump followed through on his veto threat, the House would be the first to attempt a waiver.