WASHINGTON – U.S. President Donald Trump doubled his threat to veto the annual defense policy bill with two late night tweets urging the chairman of the Republican Senate Armed Forces Committee – a close ally of the president – not to go along with his demands note for changes to the measure.
It is the latest act in the bill drama that contradicts Trump’s plans to retain the titles of several army bases named after Confederate personalities and to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and Germany.
Failure to make legislation into law will mark the end of a series of 59 consecutive years of success for the defense budgetary measure, disrupting hundreds of planned Pentagon reforms, program launches and re-authorizations of special salaries.
Republican and Democratic aides to the armed forces committees, which draft the bill each year, said ahead of the president’s latest tweets that they would not have a backup plan if the commander-in-chief was scrutinizing the legislation.
“We are definitely not thinking about what to do about a veto,” said a senior Republican adviser to the Senate Armed Forces Committee, “because we still hope there is no veto.”
The 4,517-page bill to approve the defense of $ 740.5 for fiscal year 2021, released Thursday, is the result of months of negotiations between representatives of the House, Senate and Trump administrations. Congressional assistants said they expect the bill to be passed early next week, and the Senate will follow suit a day or two later.
Trump has announced in recent months that he will be vetoing the inclusion of the language on the bill to rename military bases named after Confederate personalities. Over the past few days, however, he has stated several times that the legislature should include a provision repealing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 – otherwise it would block the legislation.
In an ongoing war with big tech companies like Facebook and Twitter, Trump has accused social media sites of censoring conservative views, including his own.
Earlier this week, Senate Armed Forces Committee chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Told Trump that Congress would move forward without his new demand. On Friday, shortly after midnight, Trump sent two tweets to attack the decision.
“Very sad for our nation, it looks like Senator @JimInhofe is not going to add the Section 230 termination clause to the Defense Act,” he wrote. “So bad for our national security and electoral integrity. Last chance to ever make it. I will VETO! “
Inhofe had already published a statement in which he proudly announced the completion of the law that “supports our troops, supports our military families and strengthens our national defense”. Trump retweeted that, adding, “But Big Tech is not getting rid of Section 230, a serious threat to national security. I’m going to VETO!”
In an apparently conciliatory move on Wednesday, Inhofe – an arch Conservative and one of the oldest Republicans to negotiate the bill – promised in a Senate speech that he would “do everything possible” to get it repealed, but “in another way.”
Repeal of Section 230 has no set consensus in Congress, and Inhofe argued that including repeal language would strengthen the NDAA.
“We need a place for section 230 to be removed, and we need to do it. The NDAA is about making sure our troops are supplied, ”Inhofe said. “It’s for our children in the field. They are the ones we support. They are the ones who need us.”
It is unclear what personal political damage there will be for Inhofe, whose successful re-election offer Trump approved this year. Inhofe defeated his Democratic opponent by more than 30 points in the November elections and is expected to return as chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee next year.
Democrats have insisted that vetoing the People’s Defense Act would be a political mistake for Trump and the Republican Party ahead of the crucial Georgia Senate runoff next month. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., Has predicted that if vetoed, Republicans would vote for an override, but this is undoubtedly a logistical issue for Congress.
“If the president is stupid enough to veto, I think they got their way,” Smith said of the Republicans in Congress earlier this week. “You won’t vote [earlier versions] go out [of the House and Senate] and then change it because it’s an override. “
Several Republicans, including John Thune, R-S.D., Have objected to Trump’s veto threat, but they’re likely to weigh up whether to defy a president willing to name Republicans on his Twitter feed.
A presidential veto also creates problematic time problems for Congress. Both the House and Senate are slated to begin their vacation break late next week, and the current session of Congress ends January 3.
It usually takes a week or more to register the massive Defense Policy Act and submit it to the White House. Trump has 10 days to decide whether to issue the veto. This schedule could result in Congress leaders struggling to schedule a vote to lift the veto and flying members back to Capitol Hill just days or hours before the new Congress session.
In the fall of 2019, when NDAA talks between the Chambers and the White House stalled, Inhofe proposed a pure version of the annual legislation to only approve the troop extra payments and benefits that would otherwise be forfeited.
In a conference call with reporters on Thursday detailing this year’s compromise law, committee advisors said there is no such plan this year.
“This is the bill,” said a senior Democratic adviser to the House Armed Services Committee. “This is the bill that will pass the House … and the President will do what the President will do. The leadership of the House and Senate will decide how to react if the President does anything other than the bill to sign. “
Lawmakers have stated that the bill in the new Congress cannot be recycled without significant new work.
“If the president decides to veto, we will deal with the time we have,” said the Democratic adviser. “And if we don’t, we’ll figure out how to solve such a problem.”