WASHINGTON – The House voted on Monday to overturn President Trump’s veto on the annual military policy bill, rallying bipartisan support to enact the legislation over the president’s objections and issuing him a rare legislative rebuke in the closing days of his presidency.
The 322-to-87 vote marks the first time a chamber of Congress has agreed to bypass one of Mr. Trump’s vetoes, underlining the widespread popularity of military legislation, which allows a pay rise for the country’s troops . It also amounted to a remarkable rebuke over the president’s decision to flout one of his party’s main orthodoxies – projecting military force – from Republicans who have been reluctant to challenge Mr. Trump in his four years. in power.
The margin has exceeded the two-thirds majority needed in both chambers to force the bill through over Mr. Trump’s objections. The Senate will consider the bill later this week, and it is expected to pass.
“The president has exercised his constitutional prerogative. Now, Madam President, it is for us to decide, ”said Representative Mac Thornberry of Texas, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, in an address before the vote. “Our troops, the country, indeed, the world is watching to see what we’ll do – if we can eliminate the other differences and continue to come together to support the men and women of the US military and national security. .
Congress has been successful in pushing the military bill through every year for 60 years, with lawmakers relishing the opportunity to assert their support for national security and report victories to their constituents.
But Mr Trump, following a series of month-long threats, vetoed bipartisan legislation on Wednesday, citing a changing list of reasons, including his objection to a provision directing the military to remove names Confederate leaders of the bases. He also demanded that the bill include the repeal of a legal shield for the social media companies he has meddled with, a significant legislative change that Republicans and Democrats say is irrelevant. for a bill that dictates military policy.
Senior lawmakers who ran the legislation had hoped that assembling a veto-proof majority in its favor would spur Mr. Trump to sign the bill. Their willingness to mow over Mr. Trump’s objections to moving the measure forward was a radical departure from the deference the president normally received on Capitol Hill.
The last time Congress overturned a presidential veto was in 2016, the last year of Barack Obama’s presidency, after vetoing legislation allowing families of the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks to sue Saudi government. Lawmakers attempted – but failed – to override Mr. Trump’s vetoes on legislation banning arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries, and a doomed attempt to overturn his declaration of emergency at the southwest border.
On no other issue have Republicans been more willing to break with the president than on national security issues, but these expressions of defiance have rarely amounted to more than symbolic statements. Surely it didn’t help the president that the exemption vote came days after scathing criticism of the $ 900 billion coronavirus relief deal that Republican lawmakers voted for, leaving some members of his own party complaining about throwing them under the bus.
The military policy bill includes a number of bipartisan measures, including new benefits for tens of thousands of Vietnam-era veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange, an increase of 3 % of military salary and an increase in incentive compensation for dangerous rights.
It would also 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.
The bill also directly addresses the racial justice protests sparked 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.