Trump Vetoes Defense Policy Bill Over Base Names, Unrelated Internet Law

Evan Vucci/AP

The House has already scheduled a vote after Christmas to override the president’s long-threatened rejection of the annual Defense authorization act, which also includes an expansion of federal employee leave benefits.

President Trump on Wednesday followed through on his long public threats and vetoed the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, citing complaints with provisions to rename military bases named for Confederate generals and the lack of change to an unrelated law governing Internet companies.

The annual defense policy bill passed by overwhelming, veto-proof margins in both the House and Senate earlier this month. The bill also included several provisions improving federal workers’ paid leave benefits.

The bill includes a technical fix to the paid parental leave program adopted as part of last year’s Defense authorization act, to ensure all federal employees have access to up to 12 weeks of paid time off in connection with the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child.

It also increases the cap on the amount of annual leave federal workers can carry over at the end of this year by 25%. That provision came in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has made it more difficult for employees to use their leave. The waiver of the normal leave cap will not apply to lump sum payments made to employees for unused leave when they exit federal service.

Trump vetoed the bill because of a provision requiring the Pentagon to rename military bases named for Confederate military leaders, and the lack of a provision repealing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a law that shields internet companies from liability for what users post online. Although lawmakers in both parties have dismissed this complaint as unrelated to national security, Trump has insisted the NDAA include changes to the law.

“The act fails even to make any meaningful changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, despite bipartisan calls for repealing that provision,” Trump wrote. “Section 230 facilitates the spread of foreign disinformation online, which is a serious threat to our national security and election security. It must be repealed.”

The House has already scheduled votes for next week to override the veto threat, although it is unclear whether Republicans will continue to support the bill’s passage. Earlier this month, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said that while he supports the bill, he would not vote to override the president’s veto. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., indicated he would follow suit in a tweet on Wednesday.

“Congress should vote to Repeal Section 230 as requested by President [Trump],” he wrote. “I will not vote to override presidential veto unless effort is made to wind down Section 230.”