Trump says race is ‘far from over yet’ after Thanksgiving Day address to US military

Senate approves defence bill after Rand Paul steps aside – but Donald Trump’s veto means more drama ahead

Senate approves defence bill after Rand Paul steps aside – but Donald Trump’s veto means more drama ahead

Senate approves defence bill after Rand Paul steps aside – but Donald Trump’s veto means more drama ahead

After tiptoeing to the edge a legislative abyss and possible government shutdown, the Senate approved a massive Pentagon policy that Donald Trump has threated to veto – setting up override votes in both chambers before Christmas.

In the blink of an eye on Friday morning, the Senate voted to end debate on the $740b National Defense Authorization Act and then teed up a midday vote on final passage that saw most Republicans and Democrats vote for the bill. The near-final tally (83-13, with four senators yet to cast their vote) is more than enough to ensure the chamber had ample “aye” votes to override an expected veto – though GOP Senator Rand Paul’s temporary blockade was designed to sustain it, a source said on Friday. 

The votes came after some more holiday season drama, with Mr Paul holding up passage of the bipartisan measure over language that places strings on a president’s ability to bring home deployed troops.

But more drama lies ahead for the measure, considered a “must-pass” item by Republicans and Democrats, which has become law for 59 consecutive years. The president says he will veto the bill because it does not contain language repealing or dramatically altering legal liability protections for social media firms he claims – without proof – are censoring conservatives.

The move also sets up more Friday drama by allowing the Senate to move next to resolving a conflict over a one-week spending bill needed to avert a government shutdown at midnight. 

Congressional leaders and the heads of the House and Senate Armed Services committees, after six months of work to hammer out a compromise version, opted to move to final votes on the measure without adding Mr Trump’s demanded language on the protrections, known as “Section 230.”

Mr Trump is contending that social media giants like Twitter, Facebook and others suppressed right-leaning content in an attempt to help Joe Biden defeat him in last month’s presidential election.

The outgoing commander in chief on Tuesday issued a clear veto threat of the NDAA, putting its nearly six-decades streak at risk over his latest feud with a perceived enemy.

“I hope House Republicans will vote against the very weak National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which I will VETO. Must include a termination of Section 230 (for National Security purposes), preserve our National Monuments, & allow for 5G & troop reductions in foreign lands!” he wrote.

That afternoon, the White House Office of Management and Budget issued a formal and detailed veto threat, saying the measure “fails to include critical national security measures, includes provisions that fail to respect our veterans and our military’s history, and contradicts efforts by this administration to put America first in our national security and foreign policy actions.

The document refers to Mr Trump’s stances on Section 230 and renaming US military bases named for Confederate leaders. Both became deal-breakers for him in recent weeks. “Numerous provisions,” OMB wrote, “direct contradict” Mr Trump’s national security and foreign policy stances, and his advisers would recommend a veto if it lands on his desk in its House-passed form.

But the president has not mentioned the bill on Twitter since most House Republicans joined Democrats to easily pass the bill.

Only 40 House Republican voted against the measure, with 140 supporting it; 195 Democrats voted for passage, with 37 voting against and one present.

In a blow to Mr Trump, that is enough ‘yay’ votes (335) to override his promised veto.

‘President Trump’s major progress’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also bucked the GOP president, urging all senators to vote for the bill even as he called it “far from perfect.”

“This NDAA will unlock more than $740 billion for the training, tools, and cutting-edge equipment that our servicemembers and civilian employees need to defend American lives and American interests.It will give our troops the 3% pay raise they deserve,” Mr McConnell said Thursday on the Senate floor.

“It’ll keep our forces ready to deter China and stand strong in the Indo-Pacific,” he added. “And it will secure President Trump’s major progress at modernizing our capabilities, our technologies, and our strategic nuclear deterrent. This legislation will secure wins on priorities that all of us share.”

The GOP Senate leader hit on a paradox hanging over Mr Trump’s threat: the bill codifies and expands on his plans to buy new combat equipment. He campaigned for a second term, in part, on having “rebuilt our military.” A veto also would block a 3 per cent pay raise for military troops.

Republican Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe of Oklahoma on Friday morning also urged passage, calling it a “good bill” that will help all the “young people” deployed around the world in US military uniforms.

House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornerry, a retiring Texas Republican, sent the president a message beore his chamber approved the compromise bill, saying it should not be put on a chopping block due to “an excuse about what’s not in it.” While he did not directly refer to Mr Trump by name, he said: “Our troops should not be punished because [the bill] does not fix everything that needs to be fixed.”

Nebraska GOP Congressman Don Bacon spoke a few minutes later, saying he is “in agreement with the president’s concerns on Section 230 – however … it falls outside the jurisdiction of this vote … and deserves its own bill.”

“Do you think you’ll get a better bill in two months?” he asked “The answer is no.”

‘Sustaining POTUS’ veto’

Mr Paul’s blockade came two days later.

includes a provision that would bar a president from precipitously pulling US troops out of certain military zone, namely Germany and Afghanistan, without congressional permission.

“This bill creates 535 commanders in chief,” Mr Paul chided his colleagues who support the measure, referring to the combined number of lawmakers in the US House and Senate.

Mr Paul said it did not square that Congress had given president’s nearly unlimited power to unilaterally initiate military strikes and conflicts, but that it was now seeking to curb a president’s ability to unilaterally end such conflicts.

“They really don’t care about their theory of an all powerful commander in chief, they care more about perpetuating the Afghan war,” Mr Paul alleged.

After standing aside and allowing a final vote, an aide to Mr Paul said his blockade was intended to use procedural hurdles in an attempt to sustain the president’s expected veto.

“It wasn’t a matter of standing down.  Just making the difference that we could on one of the most important issues out there: stopping forever wars.  The goal all along here has been to delay the bill as long as possible so it makes it harder to override the veto, which POTUS has said he would do if that provision remained,” the aide said.

“So while we didn’t get the provision removed, we did succeed in delaying the bill and helping the chances of sustaining POTUS’ veto,” the aide added, “as well as supporting his foreign policy goals of bringing our troops home.”

Griffin Connolly contributed to this report.

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