Defying President Donald Trump’s threat to veto a bill to finance the military, which must be passed annually if Congress does not lift legal protection for social media companies, Republicans went ahead undisturbed on Wednesday, ignoring the commander-in-chief’s warning to try to broker a deal with the Democrats.
In a tweet on Tuesday night, Trump wrote that he would “VETO” the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which Congress has passed over the past 59 years with overwhelming cross-party support, unless the legislature repeals Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which provides liability protection for large technology companies such as Facebook and Twitter against content on their platforms.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said he had informed Trump that they would proceed without the President’s demand.
“Section 230 has nothing to do with the military,” Inhofe told reporters on the Capitol. “I agree with his opinion that we should abolish Section 230. But that is not possible with this bill. This is not a relevant bill.”
When asked what the President’s answer was, Inhofe said, “We just had an honest difference of opinion, very friendly.”
Only hours after Trump’s warning, the House of Representatives and the Senate agreed on duel versions of the NDAA on Wednesday afternoon. The bipartisan legislation not only omits the language about paragraph 230, but also includes a provision that Trump rejected and prompted a separate earlier veto threat: the renaming of military bases that bear a Confederate name, an amendment tabled by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
The renaming of 10 military bases across the country with titles based on officers of the Confederate Army threatened to confuse the $700 billion-plus bill in the partisan debate, as some Republicans felt the matter should be dealt with separately.
However, an agreement was reached to include this provision, and many Republicans expressed their dislike of Trump’s recent threat to veto big-tech reform of the critical defense bill, an issue that has nothing to do with national security-despite the president’s claims to the contrary.
“I would hope that he would not go through with it. I think what he is proposing is how strongly he feels Section 230 and the need for reform, and there are many of us who feel very strongly about it,” Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) told Washington Newsday. “Personally, I wouldn’t want that to be a reason not to sign the NDAA. I think that would be a mistake.”
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that Trump was “serious” about his veto.
Congressman Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.) said Trump’s mere suggestion “disgusted” him.
The urge to rename military bases to Confederate names gained momentum this summer amid a national reckoning on racial injustice reform.
The two houses of parliament plan to pass the unified law by the end of next week, before leaving town, presumably for Christmas. If they get enough support, Congress could bring Trump to his knees by passing the NDAA with a veto-proof majority. The law has almost always been passed with enough votes to prevent a veto.
Nevertheless, some Republicans sided with Trump in an attempt to advance the Section 230 issue, which Conservatives and GOP lawmakers have long claimed gives large technology companies the opportunity to censor their votes in an unfair way.
“I support him in exerting as much pressure as possible,” said Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a Trump confidante.
Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), one of the harshest critics of the big technology companies in Congress, said he supported Trump’s move “100 percent” and his demand was “absolutely reasonable.
“We don’t make so many laws anymore, in case you haven’t noticed,” Hawley said with a laugh. “There aren’t many laws that this body makes anymore, so if there is something that moves, I think it is absolutely reasonable”.