US Rep. Mike Gallagher Photo by Max Cozzi USGLC 4/2018 CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives voted Monday evening to override President Donald Trump’s veto of a $740 billion defense spending bill, setting up the first veto override of Trump’s tenure.
Following Monday’s 322-87 vote, the bill heads back to the Senate, which is slated to return to session Tuesday. Overriding a presidential veto requires a two-thirds veto in each chamber.
The National Defense Authorization Act, a wide-ranging annual measure that includes pay raises for soldiers and defense modernization programs, initially passed both chambers of Congress with overwhelming, veto-proof majorities.
Wisconsin representatives voted along mixed party lines on the veto override. Voting to preserve Trump’s veto were Republican Reps. Glenn Grothman, Tom Tiffany, Jim Sensenbrenner and Bryan Steil and Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan.
Voting for the defense bill to stand were Republicans Mike Gallagher and Democrats Gwen Moore and Ron Kind. Gallagher issued a lengthy statement on his vote in favor of the bill, focused on cyber security. Gallagher is co-chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, which issued a report he called “the most comprehensive and forward-looking piece of national cybersecurity in the nation’s history.” He applauded the inclusion of 26 of the commission’s recommendations in the defense bill.
“The SolarWinds espionage campaign emphasized our vulnerabilities in cyberspace and underscored the pressing need for action,” said Gallagher. “Congress must work to make sure this never happens again, and the FY2021 NDAA takes concrete steps to help achieve this goal.
“While we are still learning about the scale of this campaign, what we do know is that many of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission’s recommendations included in this bill would have helped the government better respond to the hack.”
Gallagher was referencing the recent cybersecurity attack on several government agencies and private companies. U.S. officials suspect the attacks are linked to Russian hackers who breached network monitoring software by the Texas-based SolarWinds Corp.
Pocan did not put out a statement on his vote, but tweeted Tuesday that, “The American people need $2,000 more than the Pentagon needs a $740,000,000,000 budget.”
The American people need $2,000 more than the Pentagon needs a $740,000,000,000 budget.
— Rep. Mark Pocan (@repmarkpocan) December 29, 2020
He has long opposed what he has described as an excessive defense budget. In July, when the House voted on a 10% cut to the defense budget, he stated, “A $740 billion defense budget is a failure. A $74 billion cut to the defense budget would have been a modest reduction to a bloated budget filled with administrative waste and Pentagon slush funds. The American people need Congress to make an investment in their needs — in healthcare, housing and education — not another quarter of a trillion dollar giveaway to defense contractors. Our fight to reprioritize our budget is far from over, and until the federal budget reflects the needs of the American people, we will keep fighting.”
But Trump had signaled that he would veto the bill for several reasons, including that it did not repeal what’s known as Section 230, which shields internet and social-media companies from liability for content posted on their websites. He also opposed a provision to rename military installations named for Confederate generals.
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said Monday that Trump vetoed the measure “because of something that isn’t in the bill and was never going to be in the bill, something totally unrelated to national security and something that we were not going to do in any event.”
Monday’s override vote in the Democratic-controlled House was widely bipartisan and only slightly narrower than the initial 335-to-78 vote. Some GOP lawmakers who initially supported the defense bill, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), did not support the override, though 109 Republicans voted with Democrats to approve it.
“I continue to support this bill, as more than 80 percent of the House did just 20 days ago,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee. “It’s the exact same bill. Not a comma has changed.”
Thornberry added that Trump “exercised his constitutional prerogative” in vetoing the measure, but urged lawmakers to “put the best interests of the country first.”
The override attempt now heads to the Republican-controlled Senate, which passed the bill initially on a 84-13 vote.
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, tweeted after Trump’s veto that the defense bill should become law, and that another measure can be used to address liability concerns related to Section 230.
“The NDAA has become law every year for 59 years straight because it’s absolutely vital to our national security and our troops,” Inhofe wrote. “This year must not be an exception. Our men and women who volunteer to wear the uniform shouldn’t be denied what they need — ever.”
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