US Congress approves defense bill in defiance of Trump veto threat

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Congress passed a $ 740 billion defense bill, setting up a confrontation with Donald Trump who threatened to veto the bill over demands unrelated to the removal of legal protections from companies. social media.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted 84 to 13 to approve the National Defense Authorization Act, after being passed by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives earlier this week.

The legislation was passed with a majority of over two-thirds in both houses of Congress, meaning lawmakers have enough votes to overturn a veto.

Mr. Trump vowed to veto the NDAA because Congress refused to give in to his request include language to strip social media companies of legal protections from content posted on their platforms. He accused social media groups of being prejudiced against him.

He also opposes language that would force the Pentagon to rename military bases named after Confederate generals as part of an effort to stop commemorating those associated with supporting slavery. He is also unhappy with the language that prevents him from implementing a plan to withdraw about a third of the 34,500 American forces in Germany.

The vote on annual defense legislation marked one of the few times Republicans have widely opposed Mr. Trump.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader in the Senate, had urged his caucus to support the bill. Pressing his members for the bill – which is seen as “must pass” because it funds military pay – he said it would help “keep our forces ready to deter China and stay strong. in the Indo-Pacific “.

The NDAA would force Mr. Trump to impose sanctions on Turkey for buying a Russian missile system. It also extends the obligation for the administration to sanction companies that help build the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that Russia is building to transport gas to Germany.

The in-house version of NDAA contained language that would have made it difficult for the US government to purchase drones manufactured by Chinese companies – align with internal pressures from the administration to crack down on the use of Chinese technology that could pose a security risk. But the final version of the bill approved by the House and the Senate cut the tongue out because it was too draconian.

Pentagon officials wanted the legislation to pass by October 1, in time for funds to flow in early 2021, although the timeline has slipped steadily in December in recent years. Michael O’Hanlon, a defense expert at the Brookings Institution, said delays in passing the legislation had already hampered “good planning” by the Pentagon.

Mr. Trump has pledged the biggest build-up to the military ever after a contraction during the Obama era. But its initial increase in defense spending – which reached nearly $ 700 billion in the first year – leveled off in subsequent years. Congress last year passed a defense spending budget of $ 738 billion for fiscal 2020, which ended in October.

“Trump’s mini build is over because of this year’s funding. . . is basically equal to last year, actually a decrease in actual funding, ”Mr. O’Hanlon said.

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