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House defense bill passes easily, despite Trump veto threat

President Donald Trump. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
December 09, 2020

The House overwhelmingly approved a $740 billion defense bill Tuesday, defying a veto threat from President Donald Trump and sending the measure to the Senate for final passage.

The National Defense Authorization Act was approved by a veto-proof margin of 335 to 78, with most Republicans joining most Democrats.

Rep. Kendra Horn, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said, “I am proud this bill includes my Military HOMES Act to continue addressing substandard on-base housing conditions and provide additional protections for service members and their families. I also fought for measures to ensure the U.S. remains the world’s leader in AI (artificial intelligence) development and to strengthen our nation’s cybersecurity.

“This bill strengthens our national security, addresses emerging threats, and makes us safer. Compromise takes hard work, but the NDAA is proof that it’s possible and that it pays off.”

Rep. Tom Cole, whose district includes Tinker Air Force Base and Fort Sill, said, “This vital legislation rightly authorizes funding for programs and resources to keep our nation safe while also supporting the devoted and brave individuals who make every mission possible. Indeed, along with their usual assignments and duties, many of our devoted service members have navigated new and unexpected challenges, including being called upon to serve on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.”

The legislation authorizes a 3% pay hike for U.S. troops, along with hazard pay and various bonuses. The annual defense policy measure also sets troop strength for the various services, spending levels for weapons systems and a range of other congressional priorities.

Under the bill, a special commission must make recommendations for changing the names of 10 U.S. Army bases named after confederate generals and for dealing with monuments and statues associated with confederate leaders.

Trump objects to renaming the bases, but has threatened to veto the bill because it doesn’t strip social media companies of legal protections. For the past week, the president has insisted that the bill include repeal of Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which shields companies like Twitter from lawsuits over content posted by users.

Trump put pressure on Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to add repeal of Section 230 to the final version of the bill, though it is not an action Inhofe could take unilaterally since the compromise legislation combines House and Senate bills.

House members from both parties said Tuesday that the defense bill wasn’t the proper place for debating the legal immunity of social media companies.

Rep. Kevin Hern said, “I am aware that President Trump is still concerned about issues with Section 230 and has threatened to veto the NDAA over this issue. I believe the President is founded in his concerns, but it is in our nation’s best interest to pass the NDAA without unrelated measures.”

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the defense bill was a product of compromise and an important exercise of legislative authority.

“I will tell you, Sen. Inhofe and I disagree on a lot,” Smith said. “We also do not have a lot in common. But we have come together on this bill because we recognize the importance of that (legislative) process. You have to learn to work with people you disagree with in order for civil society to function.”

Cole said Tuesday, “I applaud the leadership of Oklahoma’s own Senator Jim Inhofe, who helped negotiate this bipartisan and bicameral conference report. As chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee, he understands the needs that must be fulfilled and prioritized today to build and strengthen the defense we need in the days and years to come, which is certainly reflected in this conference report.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters Tuesday that he would support the defense bill and that it was not known whether the legislation would be vetoed.

The bill is expected to be taken up by the Senate later this week, with Inhofe leading debate.


(c) 2020 The Oklahoman

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