President Donald Trump vetoed the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Wednesday, following through on his pledge to do so earlier this week.
The president cited the bill’s provisions allowing the military to axe names of Confederate leaders from military bases and its absence of reforms to big tech protections from third-party liability online granted under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Section 230 allows publishers such as Twitter and Facebook to receive legal protections no other publishers receive online, assisting in their monopoly of public discourse. In his veto statement, Trump called the lack of Section 230 alterations a national security and election integrity threat.
The 4,517-page bill, passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress, also would have offered pay raises for U.S. troops, modernization of equipment, and stricter congressional review before a president could draw U.S. forces down from foreign stations such as Germany or Afghanistan.
“Unfortunately, the Act fails to include critical national security measures, includes provisions that fail to respect our veterans and our military’s history, and contradicts efforts by my administration to put America first in our national security and foreign policy actions,” Trump wrote in a statement to Congress, reported CNBC.
The president’s veto of the colossal $740 billion legislation came less than 24 hours after Trump threatened to veto a broader spending bill to fund the government and spend another nearly trillion dollars in the name of COVID, railing against the combined $2.3 trillion package as a pork-stuffed product of the beltway swamp that is routine in the nation’s capital.
“Among the more than 5,000 pages in this bill, which nobody in Congress has read because of its length and complexity. It’s called the COVID relief bill, but it has almost nothing to do with COVID,” Trump said.
The president complained that the proposal sent excessive funds to foreign governments and allocated money towards federal art institutions that remain closed. Neither of these has anything to do with direct COVID relief to the American people suffering under lockdowns.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 23, 2020
“This bill contains $85 million for assistance to Cambodia, $134 million to Burma, $1.3 billion for Egypt and the Egyptian military, which will go out and buy almost exclusively Russian military equipment, $25 million for democracy and gender programs in Pakistan, $505 million to Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama,” Trump admonished lawmakers.
The $900 billion portion of the package ostensibly targeted for COVID relief included direct $600 payments to individuals and an extra $300 in federal unemployment benefits, extending federal payments for those not working to nearly an entire year.
While blasting what he declared “wasteful” items throughout the bill, Trump complained the $600 direct payments were far too low. Instead, the president demanded Congress to up checks to $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for couples to cope with the pandemic. His public complaint is that COVID “relief” is being used to bail out big business and unrelated special interests rather than support suffering Americans.
Whether the president is right on the policy is an open debate, but the messaging is on brand.
Vetoing the annual defense spending bill and trashing Congress for being too generous to foreign countries and not generous enough to the struggling taxpayers footing the bill, Trump is leaving office on the same note he entered it: decrying the Washington establishment on behalf of the working American, in true Trump form. Combined with a wave of 20 Christmas pardons with less than a month to go in his presidency, Trump is going out proving that he meant it when claiming since his political entrance in 2015 he has no use for the beltway elites.
If Trump really wanted to stick it to the creatures of the swamp on the way out, James Comey in particular, he’d also pardon Martha Stewart.