U.S. President Donald Trump Wednesday vetoed the annual defense policy bill, objecting to the package, which had broad bipartisan support in Congress, and calling the measure a “gift” to China and Russia.
The National Defense Authorization Act would have authorized $740 billion in military programs and given 3% pay raises to members of the military. The NDAA also guides Pentagon policy on issues such as troops levels, weapons systems and personnel matters.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump’s veto “an act of staggering recklessness that harms our troops.”
“Trump is using his final hours in office to sow chaos, including by denying our servicemembers a long-overdue pay raise and hazard duty pay; our families paid family leave, child care, housing and health protections; and our veterans the benefits that they need and deserve,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The President’s veto also deprives our country and allies of tools to protect global security – including for cyber-security.”
Trump had long threatened to veto the bill if it did not include a repeal of Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which provides liability protections for social media companies.
Senator James Inhofe, a Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, expressed support for the NDAA, while saying Congress should handle Section 230 repeal separately.
“The NDAA has become law every year for 59 years straight because it’s absolutely vital to our national security and our troops. This year must not be an exception,” Inhofe said in a statement Wednesday. “Our men and women who volunteer to wear the uniform shouldn’t be denied what they need— ever. This NDAA cements all the remarkable gains our military has made thanks to President Trump’s leadership and sends a strong message of support to our service members and their families.”
In a statement explaining his veto, Trump also reiterated his objection to a provision allowing for the renaming of some military facilities that honor leaders from the Confederacy, a group of 11 slave-holding southern states that seceded from the United States, triggering the 1860s U.S. Civil War.
“I have been clear in my opposition to politically motivated attempts like this to wash away history and to dishonor the immense progress our country has fought for in realizing our founding principles,” Trump said.
Pelosi said Trump’s veto goes against the country’s values, “as it would block action to rename military bases and infrastructure named after those who served in the Confederacy – which is supported by an overwhelming majority of the American people, by House and Senate Democrats and Republicans and by our servicemembers and top military leaders.”
Among his complaints about the bill, Trump also said it would undermine his authority as commander in chief to bring American troops home.
“I oppose endless wars, as does the American public,” Trump said. “Over bipartisan objections, however, this Act purports to restrict the President's ability to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, Germany, and South Korea. Not only is this bad policy, but it is unconstitutional.”
The veto comes despite many in his own party, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, urging the president to sign the bill.
Both the House and Senate passed the bill with veto-proof majorities.
Pelosi said late Wednesday the House would hold a vote to override Trump’s veto on Monday. The Senate is expected to then consider the matter on Tuesday.
Congress has until Jan. 3, when a new Congress is scheduled to be sworn in, to override the veto.