Republikan legislators issued a sharp reprimand Wednesday in response to President Donald Trump’s threat to block the annual defense spending bill passed by Congress for more than half a century.
Speaking in a Tuesday night tweet, the commander-in-chief said he would be “forced to VETO the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) unequivocally” if section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which provides legal protection for social media companies against content shared on their platforms by third parties and users, was not complied with.
section 230, which Trump described as “a serious threat to our national security and electoral integrity,” has nothing to do with the NDAA, a crucial annual law that provides funding for the country’s military.
GOP lawmakers were not too pleased and called it inappropriate, one went so far as to say he was “disgusted.
“As a member of the House Armed Services, I am disgusted by these threats to veto the NDAA,” said Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.). “This is a strong bipartisan law on defense policy. It is not the right place for a last-minute rush job in social media.”
Congressman Chip Roy (R-Texas), a conservative and loyal ally of Trump, said that “sec 230 should NOT mix with the NDAA and should be used by the president to veto it.
Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, told Washington Newsday that he “hoped” the President would not make good on his threat, saying Trump was trying to illustrate how deep his frustration with technology protection was.
“I think what he is proposing is how strongly he feels Section 230 and the need to reform it, and there are many of us who feel that very strongly,” Rounds said. “Personally, I wouldn’t want that to be a reason not to sign the NDAA. I think that would be a mistake.”
Trump’s discussion of Section 230 reflects the concerns of conservatives and republicans that it will be unjustifiably censored by major technology companies on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. But GOP lawmakers agreed that the issue should be addressed at a different time and place – not as part of a major military bill.
Trump’s Tweet was another reminder that even though the president is a lame duckling with only weeks left in office, he still has the ability to complicate an otherwise rather mundane process. Congress has passed an NDAA for the past 59 years, and lawmakers are already trying to resolve differences before they leave town for Christmas.
“[If the very dangerous and unfair Section 230 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is not completely repealed, I will be forced to clearly VETO the bill when it is sent to Resolute’s very nice desk,” the president twittered. “Take America back NOW.”
However, this is not Trump’s first veto threat against the legislation.
This year’s NDAA has already been more complicated than usual as Congress tries to include a ban on confederate names for military bases. The Democrats support this provision, and while many Republicans do, the GOP is more divided. Trump has also threatened to veto the approval on this issue.
The majority leader in the House of Representatives, Steny Hoyer, pointed out to reporters Wednesday that the deletion of the Confederate names was a slip of the tongue: “If this language is not included,” the Maryland Democrat said, “I would hesitate to put this bill on the table.
Congress could pass the military spending bill with a veto-proof majority, as it usually does. But in the current political climate, and with the question of Confederate names still unresolved, this could prove a more difficult task than normal. On Wednesday morning, the Senate unanimously decided to go to the conference officially and resolve the differences between their version and that of the House of Representatives.
“Some people might reconsider their vote if the president had a good reason to veto it,” Rounds warned, adding that they knew that the Confederate base names would complicate the process. He predicted that the provision would eventually have to be dropped for the NDAA to pass.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a Trump confidant, expressed confidence that somehow the mystery would resolve itself.
“I think it will probably solve itself,” Graham said on Tuesday. “Just like it always does.”
This is an evolving story and will be updated. Please look back for new information.