Trump Threatens to Veto Defense Bill, This Time over China

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President Donald Trump Rose Garden of the White House
President Donald Trump listens as he attends an event on Operation Warp Speed in the Rose Garden of the White House, Friday, Nov. 13, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump has issued a new threat to veto the massive $740 billion defense policy bill, this time over unspecified concerns regarding China.

"The biggest winner of our new defense bill is China. I will veto!" Trump said Sunday morning in an all-caps tweet.

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Trump did not immediately give specifics on what part of the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act prompted his new veto threat. Much of the rest of his Sunday morning Twitter feed was devoted to more charges that the election was stolen from him by fraud.

Earlier this year, Trump threatened to veto the NDAA if it included a provision to change the names of military installations now named for Confederate officers.

Despite the threat, Congress included language to create a commission to study the issue, with a requirement to develop a name-change plan within three years.

Trump has also recently threatened a veto over the NDAA's lack of language to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects tech firms such as Facebook from legal liability for what is posted on their platforms.

The Senate on Friday passed the NDAA by a vote of 84-13, well above the two-thirds majority that would be needed to override a veto. The House earlier in the week also passed the NDAA by a veto-proof margin of 335-78.

Congress in the past has allowed for workarounds to ensure that military pay raises are not delayed, but a veto could jeopardize funding for a number of defense programs whose authorizations are set to expire Jan. 1.

Those programs include $8.5 billion for military construction, $70 million for local schools educating military children, and about 30 types of special pay, bonuses and hazardous-duty pay for service members in war zones.

The NDAA also budgets $6.9 billion for a new Pacific Deterrence Initiative to build up forces in the region, similar to the existing European Deterrence Initiative meant to shore up NATO.

According to the bill's language, the Pacific Deterrence Initiative would "send a strong signal to the Chinese Communist Party that America is deeply committed to defending our interests in the Indo-Pacific."

In a statement, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Trump's suggestion that the NDAA is weak on China has no basis in fact.

"President Trump clearly hasn't read the bill, nor does he understand what's in it," Reed said. "There are several bipartisan provisions in here that get tougher on China than the Trump Administration has ever been.

"First, he threatened the bill because of the Confederate base language. Then it was the unrelated Section 230 liability provision for social media companies. Now it's China. Give me a break," Reed added. "Our troops and the American people deserve better."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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