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Republican-led Senate overrides Trump defense bill veto in rare New Year’s Day session

  • The Republican-led Senate on Friday joined the House in overriding President Donald Trump's veto of a $740 billion defense policy bill.
  • The veto override is the first of Trump's presidency.
  • The National Defense Authorization Act is a sweeping defense bill that typically passes with strong bipartisan support since it funds America's national security portfolio.

The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The Republican-led Senate on Friday joined the House in overriding President Donald Trump's veto of a $740 billion defense policy bill.

The veto override is the first of Trump's presidency.

The bill, known as the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, passed the Senate with an 81 to 13 vote. The NDAA became law without Trump's signature.

Earlier this week the House, with the support of more than three-fourths of the chamber, passed the override measure.

The Republican-led Senate reconvened midday to take up the bill, which Trump refused to sign into law because it does not repeal certain legal protections for tech companies.

The NDAA, a sweeping defense bill that authorizes a topline of $740 billion in spending and outlines Pentagon policy, typically passes with strong bipartisan support and veto-proof majorities as it funds America's national security portfolio.

It has been signed into law every year for nearly six consecutive decades.

An F/A-18F Super Hornet launches from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alex Corona | U.S. Navy

"Our Republican Senate just missed the opportunity to get rid of Section 230, which gives unlimited power to Big Tech companies," Trump wrote on Twitter in reaction to the bill's passage.

Trump has offered a variety of reasons for opposing this year's 4,517-page NDAA, taking issue with the bill both for what it contains and what it lacks.

The president has demanded that the bill include language stripping social media companies of protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which guards them from being held liable for what users say on their platforms.

Trump, who has used Twitter prolifically throughout his presidency, has long accused media outlets of bias.

In his veto message to Congress, Trump wrote that the NDAA failed "to make any meaningful changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act." He called on Congress to repeal the measure.

Read more: Trump is trying to link stimulus checks, defense spending to a contentious tech protection – what to know

Last month, Trump argued that the bill favors Russia and China, without citing specific details. The president has also previously said the measure posed a serious threat to U.S. national security as well as election integrity but did not give any further explanatory details.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks following the ceremonial swearing-in of James Mattis as secretary of defense on January 27, 2017, at the Pentagon in Washington, DC.Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

"Really this says more about the president's legacy on defense than anything else. While he has attempted to paint himself as being strong on defense, he has repeatedly shown that he is willing to trade defense priorities for other domestic policy priorities," Todd Harrison, the director of Defense Budget Analysis and of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, explained.

"A great example of this was repeatedly diverting defense funding to pay for the border wall. Now, the president has held the defense policy bill hostage over an unrelated domestic provision—something that would not normally be in the defense bill anyway," Harrison wrote.

Harrison also added that the NDAA saga "may also show that even after four years as president, he has still not figured out how to work the legislative process."

The latest revelation comes a day after Trump returned from vacationing at his private club in Palm Beach, Florida.

Over the holidays, lawmakers scrambled to debate two significant pieces of legislation. The first, would increase Covid relief payments from $600 to $2,000 amid historic unemployment and business closures. The second, approved the $740 billion NDAA, which at a minimum, secures soldier pay raises and keeps crucial defense modernization programs running.

While in Palm Beach, Trump spent several days golfing at his for-profit golf course and sent 110 tweets which were largely focused on false claims of a rigged presidential election.

Trump, despite a slew of failed legal challenges, has not conceded the election to Democrat Joe Biden, who will be inaugurated Jan. 20.

The president also took to Twitter to garner support for an upcoming rally in Georgia ahead of the upcoming Senate runoff votes in the state. Those runoff elections will determine whether Republicans maintain control of the chamber.

President Donald Trump plays golf at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida, December 28, 2020.Marco Bello | Reuters

Georgia's two U.S. senators, Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, have positioned themselves as strong supporters of the military and as staunch Trump allies, although neither voted on the override. Perdue missed the vote after quarantining himself following contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

Republican tensions are also rising over some conservatives' plan to object next Wednesday when the new Congress officially tallies the Electoral College votes certifying Biden's victory before he is sworn in on Jan. 20.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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