Trump vetoes defence bill to set up possible override vote

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Trump Army Navy Football, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Kevin Freking, Associated Press

President Donald Trump has vetoed the annual defence policy bill, following through on threats to halt a measure that has broad bipartisan support in Congress and potentially setting up the first override vote of his presidency.

The bill affirms 3% pay raises for US troops and authorises more than 740 billion dollars in military programmes and construction.

Long before issuing the veto, President Trump offered a series of rationales for rejecting it. He has called for politicians to include limits on social media companies he claimed are biased against him — and to strip out language that allows for the renaming of military bases such as Fort Benning and Fort Hood that honour Confederate leaders.

Without going into detail, he has claimed the biggest winner from the defence bill would be China.


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Caroline Brehman/Pool via AP)

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In his veto message to the House, President Trump cited those objections and stated that 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 my Administration to put America first in our national security and foreign policy actions. It is a ‘gift’ to China and Russia”.

Both the House and Senate passed the measure by margins large enough to override a veto from the president.

President Trump had vetoed eight bills previously, but those vetoes were sustained because supporters did not gain the two-thirds vote needed in each chamber for the bill to become law without his signature.

In advance of the veto, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the bill would help deter Chinese aggression. Other Republican backers of the measure, including Sen John Thune – the second-ranking Senate leader, and Mike Gallagher – a member of the House Armed Services Committee, tweeted that the bill would counter threats from countries such as China.

Sen Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said President Trump’s declaration that China was the biggest winner in the defence bill was false. Mr Reed also noted the shifting explanations President Trump had given for the veto.

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“President Trump clearly hasn’t read the bill, nor does he understand what’s in it,” Mr Reed said.

“There are several bipartisan provisions in here that get tougher on China than the Trump Administration has ever been.”

The measure guides Pentagon policy and cements decisions about troop levels, new weapons systems and military readiness, military personnel policy and other military goals. Many programmes can only go into effect if the bill is approved, including military construction.

Mr McConnell, in a rare break with President Trump, had urged passage despite the threat to veto it. Mr McConnell said it was important for Congress to continue its nearly six-decade-long streak of passing the defence policy bill.

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