On Monday, the US House of Representatives overrode President Donald Trump’s veto of the annual defence authorisation bill by a vote of 322-87 for the first time during his tenure.
What is this legislation and why is it important?
The $740 billion legislation called the National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA) sets forth the policies for the Department of Defense (DoD)’s programs and activities every year. This is the first time that Congress has overridden a veto from the president.
Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said in a statement after the House vote that “The President’s reckless veto would have denied our service members hazard duty pay; our families paid family leave, child care, housing improvements and health protections; and our veterans their benefits. It would have senselessly deprived our allies and country of key protections for global peace and security — including for cyber-security, following a massive attack on our country.”
A report in the Financial Times said that the legislation is a “must pass” since it pays the salaries of the American armed forces and that no lawmaker would want to be associated with efforts to block military pay and the funding of weapons. Another report in the Financial Times mentioned that Trump will use his last weeks in office to “inject more turbulence into US politics”.
Why did Trump veto the bill?
Defenders of Trump’s veto on the legislation have said that the legislation fails to terminate Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) and that it is a “gift” to China and Russia.
Section 230 of the CDA provides immunity to online platforms and protects them from being liable for the content billions of people post on their platforms every day. Further, under this section, providers of “interactive computer services” are free from being treated as the publisher or speaker of any information posted by the users, rendering these platforms “unfettered by Federal or State regulation”.
Earlier this year, Trump signed an executive order aimed at removing these protections. The move came after Twitter labelled two posts made by the president on the social media platform about California’s vote-by-mail plans as fact-checked.
Trump has said that it is important to repeal Section 230 or make changes to it since the current provisions undermine national security and election integrity by allowing the spread of disinformation.
Trump has also objected to the bill and has maintained that it contradicts his foreign policy measures such as his efforts to reduce US troops in Afghanistan, Germany and South Korea. He is also opposed to it because of the proposal that certain military bases that were named after Confederate generals be renamed.
The demands to rename these bases came amid the Black Lives Matter protests in the country following the death of African-American George Floyd after a white police officer pressed his knee onto his neck for nearly nine minutes on May 25 this year. His death triggered large-scale protests in the US and some other parts of the world reviving the #BlackLivesMatter movement that was started in 2013. Amid these protests, some of the participants demanded the removal of statues or monuments that can be perceived as symbols of racism, including Confederate monuments.