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House votes to override Trump veto of defense bill

Bill funds military pay raises, would rename bases honoring Confederate leaders

House lawmakers voted 322-87 on Monday to override President Donald Trump’s pre-Christmas veto of the fiscal 2021 defense authorization bill.

The Senate is expected to hold its own override vote Tuesday.

Dozens of House lawmakers voted by proxy, taking advantage of a pandemic-era change to House rules. The Senate does not have such a rule in place.

The massive $731.6 billion legislation, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, includes provisions for military pay raises, the construction of military housing and sweeping improvements to the federal government’s approach to cybersecurity, among thousands of others.

Should the Senate vote be delayed by procedural moves, the chamber will have until the next Congress begins, at noon Jan. 3, to hold the vote. If senators miss that deadline, the legislation expires and the veto stands.

Trump took issue with a provision in the bill to rename military bases that honor Confederate figures and the lack of a provision that would repeal legal protections for social media companies found in Section 230 of a 1996 communications law.

The president has also balked at language that would impose limits on how many troops can be withdrawn from Afghanistan and Germany — and how quickly.

But the NDAA conference report passed both chambers of Congress with veto-proof majorities — 83-14 in the Senate and 335-78 in the House — and enjoys wide-ranging bipartisan support.

Top lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee urged members to override the veto.

“I strongly urge members to uphold what we did in this chamber just a couple weeks ago,” said Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., speaking on the House floor ahead of the vote.

“The president vetoed this because of something that isn’t in the bill, and was never going to be in the bill and that was totally unrelated to national security,” Smith said. “We did this once, let’s do it again and we can all go home for the rest of the year.”

Smith’s Republican counterpart, ranking member Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, echoed the sentiment.

“I continue to support this bill just as more than 80 percent of the House did just 20 days ago,” Thornberry said, “Our troops, our country and indeed the world are watching to see what we will do. I urge members to but the best interest of the country first as they vote. Nothing else matters.”

The NDAA is considered a must-pass piece of legislation that has been enacted every year for the past 59 years. This year’s version is named for Thornberry, who is retiring.

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