The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly backed a $740 billion defense policy bill that President Donald Trump has pledged to veto, heading toward a confrontation with the Republican president weeks before he is to leave office.
The vote was 335 to 78 in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, a margin that would be large enough to overcome Trump's promised veto.
"This is one thing in this incredibly tumultuous time that we can agree on," Democratic Representative Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said as he urged support for the measure.
The Senate is due to vote on the legislation in the coming days. It is expected to pass, which would send the bill to the White House for Trump to sign or veto.
The NDAA sets policy for the Pentagon on everything from how many ships and rifles to buy, to soldiers' benefits and salaries to how best to confront threats from Russia and China. Members of Congress note with pride its passage for 59 straight years, which they cite as evidence of their support for the military.
Trump has repeatedly threatened to veto this year's measure, first because of a provision - backed in both the Democratic-led House and Republican-led Senate - to remove the names of Confederate generals from military bases.
More recently, he has objected to the bill because it does not repeal legislation - known as Section 230 - protecting social media companies like Alphabet Inc's Google, Twitter Inc and Facebook Inc from liability for what appears on their platforms.
Without providing significant evidence, Trump and many of his supporters insist the tech companies have an anti-conservative bias, which the companies deny.
'TROOPS SHOULD NOT BE PUNISHED'
His threats frustrated lawmakers, including some of Trump's fellow Republicans, who said the tech measure has nothing to do with defense. They also said Trump's concerns, voiced only after his defeat in the Nov. 3 election, should not block a 4,500-page bill that provides important benefits for the troops.
"Our troops should not be punished because this bill does not fix everything that should be fixed," said Representative Mac Thornberry, the top House Armed Services Committee Republican.
The White House issued its formal veto threat on Tuesday afternoon. Lawmakers and staff have been working on the NDAA for most of the past year.
Although most congressional Republicans have strongly supported Trump throughout his presidency, a few said they would vote to override his veto, even if it means returning to Washington from their Christmas holiday break.
If the NDAA does not pass by the end of the year, the end of the current Congress, lawmakers must write a new bill. Trump leaves office on Jan. 20, when Democratic President-elect Joe Biden is to be inaugurated as president.
Republican Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe said he would vote to override a veto, a departure for a lawmaker who is normally a staunch Trump supporter.
"Yes, I would," Inhofe told reporters when asked if he would vote to override. He said he was "disappointed" with Trump's stance.
© 2021 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.