Trump to Veto Defense Bill that Doesn’t Address Online Censorship

Trump to Veto Defense Bill that Doesn’t Address Online Censorship
President Donald Trump listens during a ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Dec. 3, 2020. (Evan Vucci/AP Photo)
Zachary Stieber

President Donald Trump is going to veto the annual military authorization bill because it doesn’t address the federal law shielding technology companies from most lawsuits.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the lead negotiator on the bill, the National Defense Authorization Act, announced Thursday that he reached an agreement with Democrats on the specifics of the 2021 bill.

“The NDAA is one of the few pieces of legislation Congress passes year after year—because both parties and both houses recognize how important it is to honor commitments to our men and women in uniform and to secure our national defense,” Inhofe said in a statement.

There’s no mention of Section 230 of the Communications and Decency Act in the $1.4 trillion defense funding bill.

Because of that, Trump said, he will veto the bill.

“Very sadly for our Nation, it looks like Senator @JimInhofe will not be putting the Section 230 termination clause into the Defense Bill. So bad for our National Security and Election Integrity. Last chance to ever get it done. I will VETO!” Trump wrote in a tweet just before midnight.

About an hour later, he added that the act “doesn’t get rid of Big Tech’s windfall, Section 230, a grave threat to National Security.” He also said: “What good is having a very expensive National Defense Authorization Act if Big Tech can run circles around you and the security of our Country? End Section 230 now!”

Lawmakers from both parties said the NDAA wasn’t the place to address Section 230, a portion of a law passed in 1996 that has served to protect companies like Twitter and Facebook from lawsuits even as they increasingly adopt the role of publishers as opposed to neutral platforms for self-expression.

“As a member of House Armed Services I am disgusted with these threats to veto the NDAA. It is a strong bi-partisan DEFENSE policy bill. Not the place for a rush job last minute whack at social media,” Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Mass.) said in a statement.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) poses for a photograph in Washington on Oct. 21, 2020. (Anna Moneymaker/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) poses for a photograph in Washington on Oct. 21, 2020. (Anna Moneymaker/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Some Republicans did back Trump’s posture, including Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.).

“If that’s not included, I think he’s justified in vetoing it,” Braun said this week.

Inhofe mirrored the majority of Republicans when he told reporters in Washington on Wednesday that Section 230 may need to be reformed, but addressing it in the NDAA wouldn’t work.

“230 has nothing to do with the military. And I agree with his sentiments we ought to do away with 230 but you can’t do it in this bill,” the chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee said.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters the same day that Trump is serious about vetoing the bill.

Section 230 “is essentially a shield that is given to social media networks because they claim to be the public square,” she said.

Presidents sign bills passed by Congress or return the legislation to the chamber in which it originated through a veto, in an example of the checks and balances embedded in the U.S. government system.

Congress can usually override a veto with a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate.

Some lawmakers have suggested there are enough votes to override a veto on the NDAA.

“I will vote to override. Because it’s really not about you,” Rep Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told Trump on Twitter.

Charlotte Cuthbertson contributed to this report.