McConnell Calls on Republicans to Override Trump's Veto of Defense Bill

McConnell Calls on Republicans to Override Trump's Veto of Defense Bill
President Donald Trump, left, in a file photograph, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in Washington on Dec. 29, 2020. (AP Photo; Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber

Republicans should override President Donald Trump's veto of the defense funding bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday.

While blocking a push to approve the Trump-backed, $2,000 stimulus check bill, the top Republican in Congress urged colleagues to follow the House's lead in overriding Trump's veto of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021.

"President Trump has rightly noted this year’s defense bill doesn’t contain every provision that we Republicans would have wanted. I’m confident our Democratic colleagues feel the same way. But that is the case every year. And yet, for 59 consecutive years and counting, Washington has put our differences aside, found common ground, and passed the annual defense bill," McConnell said on the Senate floor in Washington.

"I urge my colleagues to support this legislation one more time when we vote tomorrow," he added.

Trump last week followed through on his threats and vetoed the act, in part because it did not include the removal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The section shields some technology companies, such as Google and Facebook, from most liability lawsuits.

“Unfortunately, the Act fails to include critical national security measures, includes provisions that fail to respect our veterans and our military’s history, and contradicts efforts by my Administration to put America first in our national security and foreign policy actions,” Trump said. “It is a ‘gift’ to China and Russia.”

The U.S. Constitution grants Congress the ability to override presidential vetoes. It requires a two-thirds vote in each chamber.

The House late Monday voted 322–87 to override the veto. A majority of Republicans and Democrats voted to override Trump.

"The president has exercised his constitutional prerogative. Now, madam speaker, it's up to us. 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," Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), the ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, said on the House floor before the vote.

 Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) speaks to reporters in Washington on Oct. 29, 2019. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) speaks to reporters in Washington on Oct. 29, 2019. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

"I really want members to understand the president vetoed this because of something that isn't in the bill, and was never going to be in the bill. Something totally unrelated to national security, and something that we were not going to do in any event," added Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.).

Before the Senate opened the session Tuesday, Trump called Republican leadership "weak and tied," and said he opposed portions of the bill that will rename forts.

“A disgraceful act of cowardice and total submission by weak people to Big Tech. Negotiate a better Bill, or get better leaders, NOW! Senate should not approve NDAA until fixed!!!” he said.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told colleagues he would vote to override Trump's veto, saying the act "takes a strong approach to counter the threats posed by our adversaries around the world."

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a military veteran who chairs the Senate Armed Forces Committee, described himself as disappointed when Trump vetoed the bill.

"I share President Trump's frustration about section 230. I know it's a complicated thing. The majority of people in America don't know what that's all about. Section 230 is something that has nothing to do with the military, nothing at all," he said. "That would be found in the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee is chaired by Senator Lindsey Graham. He does a great job chairing that. That's where any kind of reform in section 230 should come from."