Congress overrides Trump defense bill veto named after Texas GOP congressman

by Abby Livingston, The Texas Tribune.

In a rare holiday week vote, members of the U.S. House returned to Washington to override on Monday President Trump’s veto of a bill that handles the budget and spending of the Department of Defense.

The National Defense Authorization Act is a $740 billion bill that dates back to 1961 it is one of the few annual bipartisan pieces of legislation left in Congress. House Democrats named this year’s NDAA in honor of a Texas Republican, U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry of Clarendon. Thornberry is a former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and will retire at the beginning of the new year.

Even though it easily passed the House and the Senate earlier this month, Trump followed through on a long-threatened veto last Wednesday, complaining most frequently about a provision that would begin the process of renaming military bases named for Confederate leaders and for not including a repeal of a liability shield for internet companies.

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Thornberry advocated Monday for the bill in what is likely one of his final appearances – if not his last appearance – on the U.S. House floor.

“I continue to support this bill, as more than 80 percent of the House did just 20 days ago,” he said. “It’s the exact same bill. Not a comma has changed.”

“The president has exercised his constitutional prerogative now…It’s up to up to us,” he added. “Our troops the country, indeed the world is watching to see what we will do, whether we can tune out other differences and still come together to support the men and women of the military and American national security.”

This is the first time Congress has overridden a Trump veto, which involves two-thirds of each chamber voting in favor of the vetoed legislation.

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The Senate is expected to also override Trump. Like most of the Senate, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn also backed the NDAA.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz was one of 13 other senators to vote against the NDAA earlier this month. The state’s junior senator cited a litany of reasons at the time that included the Confederate base naming issue and the internet liability shield. The same seven Texas Republicans who voted against the NDAA the first round voted against it this time: U.S. Reps. Jodey Arrington of Lubbock, Brian Babin of Woodville, Lance Gooden of Terrell, Chip Roy of Austin and Randy Weber of Friendswood.

Trump has spent much of this year lobbying to repeal that legal provision – known as Section 230 – which Congress passed in the early days of the Internet in order to shield online companies from liability over the content users post.

Many Republican officeholders allege social media companies are biased against conservatives, and they argue that repealing Section 230 would be a means to combat this perceived inequity. Trump’s ire at the language escalated earlier this year when Twitter began to add fact check language to his false tweets.

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A number of officeholders – even those who might agree with this position – complain that discussions around commerce belong in other legislation, not a sweeping, traditionally bipartisan bill that addresses funding the armed services.

This is a separate bill from the legislative upheaval over recent days involving government funding and economic stimulus intended to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the fact that Trump administration officials negotiated a spending bill that passed both chambers of Congress, Trump promptly complained after passage that it did not contain a $2,000 direct payment to most Americans.

Instead, Congressional Republicans had successfully negotiated to limit those payments to $600. After telegraphing he might veto the bill, Trump signed that bill late Sunday. The U.S. House overwhelmingly passed that $2,000 direct payment on Monday night as well. But that measure’s passage in the U.S. Senate is far less clear.

Three Texans were not present at either vote: U.S. Reps. John Carter of Round Rock, Kenny Marchant of Coppell and Ron Wright of Arlington – all Republicans.