“For 60 years in a row, the NDAA has provided the necessary support for our troops and national security,” said Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) in a statement after the vote. “Today’s vote sent a clear message that Congress will not allow President Trump to stand in the way of that support and I am relieved that the critical bipartisan priorities we fought for are becoming law.”
Trump vetoed the defense measure, H. R. 6395 (116), last month because it did not include his call for the removal of legal protections for social media companies. His call for the eleventh hour liability waiver, known as Section 230, was largely circumvented by lawmakers.
Trump also opposes several other key provisions in the bill that would force the renaming of military bases that honor former Confederate leaders and limit the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Europe.
Trump has also argued that the bill is a gift to China, contradicting many Republican lawmakers who claim it is the toughest defense law Congress has passed on Beijing in years. For example, the bill provides $ 2.2 billion for a new Pacific deterrent initiative to bolster the U.S. military presence and deter China in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Defense Act, which had been in effect for 59 consecutive years, received widespread support from both parties when Congress passed it last month.
Trump’s veto was only the sixth for a defense bill in roughly four decades – and Friday’s vote marks the first time a veto on the legislation has been overridden.
Trump has vetoed several other bills, including measures to restrict arms sales in the Middle East and block Pentagon funding for a border wall with Mexico. But none of the congressional override votes would have come close to overturning them.
The Chairs of the Senate and House Armed Services committees warned of dire consequences if the Defense Act is not passed, including the military wages and benefits provisions that expired on December 31. In particular, the committee chairmen had not staked a Plan B when the law failed.
“A lot of people, like me, claim that the NDAA is the most important vote we have every year,” said Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Chairman of the Senate Armed Forces, ahead of the vote. “This year especially given all the glitches and problems we had.”
“This legislation is essential to the national security of the United States and to the well-being of the troops and families who defend us every day,” added Jack Reed of Rhode Island, senior Democrat for the armed forces.
Friday’s vote came a day earlier than expected as the bill got stuck in a traffic jam over democratically-led efforts to vote on separate laws to increase stimulus payments to Americans.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to end the veto override quickly this week, but the move has been delayed after blocking a vote on House-passed laws to increase stimulus checks to $ 2,000.
Democrats had previously blocked an earlier vote on the veto override to force McConnell to vote on reinforced stimulus checks.