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Senate Overrides Trump’s Defense Bill Veto
The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Jan. 1, 2021. The Senate moved Wednesday toward a vote to override President Trump's veto of a $740.5 billion defense policy bill, setting up a clash with the White House that may not culminate until the final hours before a new Congress begins on Sunday.
Samuel Corum/Bloomberg/Getty Images

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators overwhelmingly voted in favor of overriding President Donald Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act, marking the first time Congress has successfully passed legislation that has been vetoed by Trump. 

The Senate voted 81-13 in favor of passing the bill, a piece of annual military defense legislation that Congress has approved for sixty years in a row. Seven Republicans voted against overriding the veto, including Senators Mike Braun (R-IN), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY). The others who voted against overriding the veto were Senators Corey Booker (D-NJ), Edward Markey (D-MA), Jeffrey Merkley (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR). 

The now-passed piece of defense legislation has a cost of more than $730 billion, according to Roll Call

In a speech on the Senate floor Friday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) referred to the opportunity to pass the legislation in the current Congress, which ends Sunday afternoon, as a “serious responsibility.”

“Over the past year, our colleagues on the Armed Services Committee have made sure that the legislation delivers, for our troops and for our nation. Now it’s time for us to deliver this bill,” said McConnell.

Trump has expressed displeasure with the bill on several fronts, including its lack of provision for repealing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, and its inclusion of a provision to strip the names of Confederate leaders off military bases. The president also said the bill, as originally passed, would make bringing troops home more difficult. 

Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who voted against the defense bill earlier this week, argued a similar point about the bill in a speech on the House floor on Monday. 

“This good bill has been hijacked by the forever war lobby and their bought-and-paid-for allies in the United States Congress,” said Gaetz, who was one of 78 members of the House to vote against a veto-override Monday. “It puts barriers in the way of an administration that wants to bring our troops home and put America first.”

Trump has vetoed nine bills in the course of his presidency, but his veto of the annual defense bill has been the only one overridden by Congress, according to NBC News

The New York Times reports that the last presidential veto-override occurred in September 2016, when then-President Barack Obama refused to sign an overwhelmingly bipartisan bill allowing Americans who lost family members in the 9/11 attacks to sue the Saudi Arabian government. That override was the first, and only, time Congress exercised its power to pass laws without Obama’s signature in his presidency.

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