Trump’s Defense-Bill Veto, Explained

Wall Street Journal:

President vetoed the legislation over Confederate-named sites, troop levels and lack of changes to social-media regulation

President Trump vetoed a $740.5 billion defense-policy bill, known as the NDAA, objecting to some of its provisions related to the renaming of bases honoring Confederate figures and overseas troop levels, and that the legislation didn’t end Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Here’s a look at what’s in the bill and what’s next.

What is the NDAA?

The National Defense Authorization Act authorizes fiscal year 2021 funding for the Defense Department and Energy Department’s national-security programs, including a 3% pay raise for U.S. troops. It also includes items related to anti-money-laundering efforts, cybersecurity, overseas military commitments, Space Force and the U.S. border wall.

The Senate and House passed their own versions of the NDAA during the summer, and then voted on a compromise bill. The House passed the bill 335 to 78, and the Senate passed the bill 84 to 13. Both exceeded the two-thirds supermajority needed to override a potential veto.

Why did Mr. Trump veto the bill?

In a statement Wednesday, the White House said Mr. Trump objected to some of the provisions related to Confederate base names and troop levels abroad. The statement also said he balked because the the legislation didn’t revoke internet platforms’ broad immunity for the content they publish from users on their sites.

Mr. Trump previously had threatened to veto the bill if it contained language that would change the names of military installations or monuments named after Confederates. The legislation creates a commission for removing or changing names of bases, symbols, displays, monuments and paraphernalia honoring Confederate commanders.

He more recently has demanded that the NDAA repeal Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which grants social media companies broad liability protections.

Republicans say that social-media giants like Facebook and Twitter use it to suppress conservative voices on their sites. Democrats have also criticized Section 230 for allowing companies to ignore false and misleading information on their platforms.

Mr. Trump also said he objected to provisions in the defense bill that could complicate his plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Germany.

What happens now that Mr. Trump has vetoed it?

Lawmakers now have until Jan. 3, when newly elected members are sworn in to the next Congress, to override the veto. Congress can make the bill law over the president’s objections with a two-thirds majority vote in each chamber. But time is running out. After Jan. 3, bills passed in the last Congress will die.

Also, funding authorizations for some defense programs are set to expire on Jan. 1, including $8.5 billion for military construction, $70 million for local schools educating military children, special pay, bonuses and hazard pay for military members, and full pay for Defense Department civilian employees.

Now that Mr. Trump has vetoed the NDAA, will troops still get their pay raises?

The troops still will get their annual 3% pay raise because the annual raise doesn’t have to be reauthorized every year. But 30 types of special pay, such as a flight pay, bonuses or a 10% hazardous-duty pay increase for troops deployed in dangerous areas, wouldn’t be authorized.

What would the NDAA do about the Trump administration’s plans to withdraw troops from overseas?

This year’s NDAA includes several measures responding to Mr. Trump’s plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Germany.

The Trump administration said last month it would cut troop levels in Afghanistan by half to roughly 2,500, by Jan. 15, alarming some Republicans. The NDAA requires the administration to submit to Congress a comprehensive assessment of the withdrawal before it can use funds to pull out troops.

Mr. Trump’s move to cap U.S. troops in Germany at 25,000, a cut from the 34,500 now there, has also alarmed Republicans. A provision of the NDAA prevents the withdrawal of troops until 120 days after the secretary of Defense formally assesses the move for Congress, delaying any withdrawal until after President-elect Joe Biden takes office. 

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