In a first during his four years in office, the US Congress voted to override President Donald Trump’s veto of a massive $740.5 billion defence policy bill.
The Republican-led Senate voted 81 to 13 in a rare New Year’s Day session on Friday to join the Democrat-majority House of Representatives, in overriding Trump’s veto, making the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2021 a law, reports Xinhua news agency.
It is the first time one of Trump’s vetoes has been surmounted.
Friday’s development came just two days before a new US Congress is due to be sworn in.
Last week, the President had vetoed the NDAA, which authorises appropriations through September 2021 and sets forth policies for the Pentagon’s programs and activities.
“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 had written in a letter to Congress notifying lawmakers of his decision.
The President had sought to include in the bill a provision to repeal or “make any meaningful changes” to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a piece of Internet legislation that provides legal protection for tech companies over content from third parties and users.
He had also expressed objection to the bill because it includes a provision that requires military bases named after Confederate figures to be renamed within three years.
The NDAA, which has now become law for 60 years in a row, previously passed both chambers of Congress with an overwhelming majority.
Before Friday’s debate began, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said he was determined to pass the bill, the BBC reported.
“Here’s what the Senate is focused on – completing the annual defence legislation that looks after our brave men and women who volunteer to wear the uniform.
“We’ve passed this legislation 59 years in a row. And one way or another, we’re going to complete the 60th annual NDAA and pass it into law before this Congress concludes on Sunday,” he added.
Later Trump responded to the vote specifically on the issue of liability protection.
“Our Republican Senate just missed the opportunity to get rid of Section 230, which gives unlimited power to Big Tech companies. Pathetic,” he said on Twitter.
Bills passed by Congress need a President’s signature to become law.
On rare occasions, a President may choose to veto – or reject – legislation because of some policy disagreement.
Lawmakers can override a presidential veto and enact bills into law by mustering two-thirds of votes in both chambers of Congress.
Following the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump’s veto was “an act of staggering recklessness that harms our troops, endangers our security and undermines the will of the bipartisan Congress”.
“In a time when our country was just targeted with a massive cyber-attack, it is particularly hard to understand the reasoning behind the president’s irresponsibility,” she said in a statement.
Trump had previously vetoed eight bills, which were all upheld with support from his fellow Republicans in Congress.
He is due to leave office on January 20 and will be replaced by President-elect Joe Biden.