House approves defense bill amid President Trump veto threat


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Democratic-controlled House on Tuesday approved a wide-ranging defense policy bill, even as President Donald Trump renewed his threat to veto the bill unless lawmakers clamp down on social media companies he claims were biased against him during the election.

Trump tweeted Tuesday that he will veto “the very weak National Defense Authorization Act,” or NDAA, unless it repeals so-called Section 230, a part of the communications code that shields Twitter, Facebook and other tech giants from content liability. Trump also wants Congress to strip out a provision of the bill that allows renaming of military bases that now honor Confederate leaders.

Congressional leaders vowed to move ahead on the bill — which affirms automatic 3% pay raises for U.S. troops and authorizes other military programs — despite the veto threat.

The House approved the bill, 335-78, more than the two-thirds required to override a potential veto. The measure now goes to the Senate.

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, a member of the House Republican leadership, urged Trump not to follow through on his veto threat, but added that if he does veto it, “We should override.”

If Trump vetoes the bill, “we will come back to vote to override,” said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

But with Trump pressuring Republicans to stand with him, it was unclear until the final tally whether the bill would receive the two-thirds support needed to override a veto. The House Freedom Caucus, a bloc of roughly three-dozen conservatives, backed Trump’s position Tuesday and opposed the bill.

“We stand with the president,” said Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., the group’s chairman. “This particular NDAA bill is filled with flaws and problems,” including limitations on troop withdrawals ordered by Trump in Afghanistan and Germany, Biggs said.

Smith and other lawmakers noted that many defense programs can only go into effect if the bill is approved, including military construction. The measure guides Pentagon policy and cements decisions about troop levels, new weapons systems and military readiness, military personnel policy and other military goals.

Troops should not be “punished” because politicians failed to enact needed legislation to ensure their pay, said Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas, the top Republican on the Armed Services panel. The $731 billion measure increases hazardous duty pay for overseas deployments and other dangerous job assignments, hikes recruiting and retention bonuses and adjusts housing allowances.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump’s attempt to pressure Congress on Section 230 was justified.

“Twitter has become a publisher, choosing to fact-check content,” she said. “And when you’re a publisher, there are certain responsibilities with that and you should not be immune from liability.”

Past presidents have threatened to veto defense bills, which set annual policy with troop levels, equipment priorities, pay raises and other matters.

The defense bill is typically a widely bipartisan measure, one of the few areas of common ground. Over the summer, the Senate approved its version, 86-14, while the House similarly passed its effort.

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