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

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Clouds pass over the Capitol Dome as the Senate resumes debate on overriding the veto of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on December 31, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Joshua Roberts | 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.

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 $740 billion NDAA, which Trump refused to sign into law because it does not repeal certain legal protections for tech companies.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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.

The bill’s passage, at the minimum, secures soldier pay raises and keeps crucial defense modernization programs running.

An F/A-18F Super Hornet launches from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alex Corona | U.S. Navy

Trump 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

Trump, who spent the past week vacationing at his private club in Palm Beach, Florida, returned to the White House on Thursday as lawmakers debated legislation that would increase Covid relief payments to $2,000 amid historic unemployment and business closures.

The president himself pushed for these higher payments, although the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, has resisted holding a standalone vote on the bill providing for the higher payments, which passed with bipartisan support in the House.

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 and the upcoming Senate runoff votes in Georgia.

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.

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

Marco Bello | Reuters

The move comes ahead of next Tuesday’s U.S. Senate runoff elections in Georgia that will determine whether Republicans maintain control of the chamber.

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 Perdue is likely to miss the vote after quarantining himself following contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

“Weak and tired Republican ‘leadership’ will allow the bad Defense Bill to pass,” he said in a string of tweets this week, adding: “Unless Republicans have a death wish … they must approve the $2000 payments ASAP!”

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

Reuters contributed to this report.

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