President Donald Trump departed Washington with first lady Melania Trump Wednesday afternoon to spend Christmas at Mar-a-Lago, leaving a holiday crisis on Congress’ hands as he vetoed a must-pass defense bill and threatened to kill the COVID relief package too.
An hour before departure, Trump vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act, telling Congress he couldn’t sign the bill for a number of reasons, including that it sought to rename military bases named after Confederate figures.
‘I have been clear in my opposition to politically motivated attempts like this to wash away history and to dishonor the immense progress our country has fought for in realizing our founding principles,’ the president wrote in a veto message sent out Wednesday afternoon.
The president called the huge defense package a ‘gift’ to Russia and China and complained that it limited his ability to remove American troops from Afghanistan, South Korea and Germany.
‘I oppose endless wars, as does the American public,’ Trump said.
The president’s veto was expected, unlike Trump’s shock announcement Tuesday night that he might also veto the massive spending and COVID-19 stimulus bill, passed through both houses with bipartisan support.
The New York Times reported that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told fellow GOP lawmakers on a call Wednesday that he had spoken with Trump and the president had not decided whether to veto the legislation.
President Donald Trump (left) vetoed a massive defense bill Wednesday, in part because it renamed military bases named after Confederate figures. He then left the White House with first lady Melania Trump (right) to spend Christmas at Mar-a-Lago
President Donald Trump (left) will force Congress to override his veto in the days following Christmas. He departed the White House late Wednesday afternoon with first lady Melania Trump (right) and didn’t speak to reporters
President Donald Trump waved to reporters as he boarded Air Force One late Wednesday afternoon, after leaving Washington, D.C. in chaos
The bill, among other things, renames military bases that are named after Confederate figures, like Fort Bragg
Another one of the bases, Fort Lee, is named after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Overall, the bill will rename 10 bases
On Tuesday night, the president filmed a brief statement in which he complained about the $600 stimulus checks not being big enough.
He also was angered by the amount of foreign aid and pet projects in the government funding portion of the bill.
Now lawmakers are scrambling to figure something out to avert a December 28 government shutdown.
That’s the same day the House is expected to come back into session to override Trump’s veto of the Defense bill.
The Senate would then vote to override his veto on December 29,
Shortly after Trump’s veto message was released, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle indicated they would pursue the veto override.
‘Donald Trump just vetoed a pay raise for our troops so he can defend dead Confederate traitors,’ blasted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat.
He said Senate Democrats would vote to override it.
‘The NDAA has become law every year for 59 years straight because it’s absolutely vital to our national security and our troops. This year must not be an exception. Our men and women who volunteer to wear the uniform shouldn’t be denied what they need— ever,’ said Jim Inhofe, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and a Republican.
Inhofe argued that the bill ‘cements all the remarkable gains our military has made thanks to President Trump’s leadership.
‘I hope all of my colleagues in Congress will join me in making sure our troops have the resources and equipment they need to defend this nation,’ Inhofe said.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who sits on the committee, caled the veto a ‘deeply destructive blunder’ and said it was ‘pathetic and crazy.’
Blumenthal blasted the president for ‘eliminating the new tools and authorities we need for our nation’s cyber defense’ on the heels of a massive cyberattack, which looks to be the handiwork of Russia, though Trump has pointed a finger at China – who he holds responsible for the coronavirus outbreak – instead.
Last week, Trump tweeted a recommitment to veto the bill.
‘I will Veto the Defense Bill, which will make China very unhappy. They love it. Must have Section 230 termination, protect our National Monuments and allow for removal of military from far away, and very unappreciative, lands. Thank you!’ Trump tweeted Thursday morning.
Trump has threatened to veto the massive bill for months, recently calling on lawmakers to make changes to section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects so-called ‘big tech,’ like Facebook and Twitter, from being held liable for what’s posted on their sites.
In his veto message Wednesday, Trump said that keeping section 230 intact was a win for foreign bad actors.
‘The Act fails even to make any meaningful changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, despite bipartisan calls for repealing that provision,’ he wrote. ‘Section 230 facilitates the spread of foreign disinformation online, which is a serious threat to our national security and election integrity. It must be repealed.’
In his tweets, Inhofe pitched the Senate making modifications to section 230 in a different piece of legislation, saying he agreed with the president that it should be changed.
Republicans have claimed that social media platforms like Twitter are biased against conservatives and want to be able to sue the companies more easily.
Sen. Lindsey Graham encouraged lawmakers to do what the president requested.
‘Congress should vote to Repeal Section 230 as requested by President Trump. I will not vote to override presidential veto unless effort is made to wind down Section 230,’ he said.
Graham was one of the three lawmakers who didn’t vote either way for the bill when it passed the Senate on December 11.
Prior to focusing on section 230, Trump said he would veto the package because of the provision included in it to change the names of the 10 bases still named after Confederate generals.
‘Over the course of United States history, these locations have taken on significance to the American story and those who have helped write it that far transcends their namesakes,’ Trump argued in the veto message Wednesday.
‘My Administration respects the legacy of the millions of American servicemen and women who have served with honor at these military bases, and who, from these locations, have fought, bled, and died for their country,’ he continued. ‘From these facilities, we have won two World Wars.’
Trump referred to them in the veto message as ‘certain military installations,’ not specifically pointing out that the namesakes were members of the Confederacy, who fought to keep slavery of black Americans in place.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany also told reporters last week that Trump still planned to veto the bill in part because it limits his ability to remove troops from foreign countries.
‘One provision of concern is about troop withdrawal and deployment in Afghanistan, South Korea and Germany,’ McEnany said.
Earlier this month,
‘His advisors would recommend he veto it,’ the document said.
The Senate passed the NDAA by huge margins.
The final vote was 84 for the bill and just 13 against, with Graham, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and Sen. Mike Rounds, a South Dakota Republican, sitting it out.
Among those who voted no were prominent Republicans and Democrats, including Sens. Tom Cotton and Josh Hawley – expected to compete for their party’s nomination in 2024 – as well as Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker, who ran for president earlier this year.
Sanders explained in a tweet that he was against a bloated military budget.
‘I will be voting against the Defense Appropriations bill. We need to get our priorities right. At a time when we have enormous unmet needs in our country we should not be spending $740 billion on the military – more than the next 10 nations combined,’ Sanders wrote in a Thursday tweet.
With 84 senators voting for the bill, the Senate should have no problem overriding a veto. Two-thirds of the Senate is needed to do so.
Earlier that week, on December 8, the bill cleared the House of Representatives with a vote 335-to-78.
A veto override vote will have to happen in the House and the Senate by January 3, when this Congress’ current term ends.
On June 10, he tweeted out a statement and McEnany come out to the podium and read it.
‘These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom,’ Trump said. ‘The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars.’
‘Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations,’ Trump said.
Black Lives Matter activists have encouraged the removal of Confederate statues and relics, because those southerners tried to keep black people enslaved and fought the Civil War over it.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy had
On June 30, Trump made his first veto threat after Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who ran for the 2020 Democratic nomination, inserted the provision to rename the bases into the bill.
It passed with bipartisan consensus, but was a voice vote – meaning there’s no record of which Republicans defected from Trump’s position.
Trump angrily tweeted about it then.
‘I will Veto the Defense Authorization Bill if the Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren (of all people!) Amendment, which will lead to the renaming (plus other bad things!) of Fort Bragg, Fort Robert E. Lee, and many other Military Bases from which we won Two World Wars, is in the Bill!’ Trump wrote.
The bill still passed the House and Senate overwhelmingly. In the Senate the tally was 86 to 14, while in the House it was 295 to 125.
After the election, Trump continued to say he would veto the bill over the Confederate base provision.
‘He’s said that,’ a senior administration official told NBC News, confirming the conversations.
While some Republicans argued that the provision should be stripped to avoid the veto, Democrats held firm.
Thirty-seven Democratic senators
‘Millions of servicemembers of color have lived on, trained at, and deployed from installations named to honor traitors that killed Americans in defense of chattel slavery,’ they wrote.
‘Renaming these bases does not disrespect our military – it honors the sacrifices and contributions of our servicemembers in a way that better reflects our nation’s diversity and values,’ the Democrats argued. ‘We know who these bases were named for and why they were named.’
‘It is long past the time to correct this longstanding, historic injustice,’ they added. ‘We must not shrink from our solemn duty in his moment.’
Ex-Defense Secretary Mark Esper was quietly working with Congress to rename the bases.
He was sacked by Trump six days after the election, marking the president’s first major firing after his loss.
THE 10 BASES NAMED FOR CONFEDERATE GENERALS
Camp Beauregard, Louisiana
National Guard training facility. Initially named Camp Stafford. Renamed for Confederate general P. G. T. Beauregard in 1917
Beauregard was West Point superintendent when his native Louisiana seceded in 1861 but quit to join the rebels, firing the first shots at Fort Sumter and commanding them at Shiloh. He advised surrender in 1865. Unusually advocated integration in later life.
Fort Benning, Alabama/Georgia
‘Home of the Infantry.’ Named in 1917 for plantation owner Henry L. Benning, who argued for secession from 1849, and railed against ‘black governors, black legislatures, black juries, black everything.’ No military experience but rose to general and was one of the last to surrender at the ceremony at Appomattox Court House.
Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Home of Special Operations Command. Named for General Braxton Bragg when it opened in 1918
Slaveowner former U.S. Army officer who joined the Confederates and rose to general but oversaw a string of defeats, culminating in Chattanooga when he resigned. Widely disliked by his men for his quick temper and obsession with discipline; historians have said his losses were a key part in Grant’s victory.
Fort Gordon, Georgia
Base for Army Signal Corps and Cyber Corps. Named for Major General John Brown Gordon when it opened in 1917
Despite no military training Gordon rose to major general, on the back of personal courage and tactical ability. Led the last charge of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox. Generally – but not definitively – acknowledged as the KKK’s leader in Georgia, then anti-Reconstruction governor and senator. Died in 1904 hailed as ‘the living embodiment of the Confederacy.’
Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia
Training and maneuver center. Named for General A.P. Hill when it opened in 1940
Hill was a career Army officer who quit just before Virginia seceded and immediately joined its forces. Distinguished brigade and division commander but blamed as Third Corps commander for part of the Gettysburg defeat and lead the rebel retreat. Killed in action a week before the Confederate surrender, after saying he did not want to outlive the Confederacy.
Fort Hood, Texas
Headquarters of III Corps. Named on opening in 1942 for General John Bell Hood
Kentucky native Hood resigned his Army commission and volunteered for the Confederates in Texas, quickly becoming brigadier-general but failed as an army commander and was relieved of command after defeat at Nashville.
Fort Lee, Virginia
Headquarters of Combined Arms Support Command. Named on opening as a camp in 1917 for General Robert E. Lee
Slaveowner Lee, the Army’s most brilliant officer, turned down a Union command to join the rebels despite opposing secession. He had victories in the Seven Days Battles and the second Bull Run, but led the rebels to the pivotal defeat at Gettysburg. Held off Grant from complete victory then personally surrendered at Appomattox as General in Chief. After the war backed the end of slavery but said black people ‘lack intelligence.’
Fort Pickett, Virginia
National Guard training site. Named for Major General George Pickett on opening in 1941
Pickett, raised on a plantation, resigned his Army commission a month after joining the Confederacy. Best known for the bloodbath of Pickett’s Charge which led to defeat at Gettysburg, he also ordered 22 Union soldiers executed after defeat at New Bern, North Carolina. Fled to Canada for a year after Confederate defeat fearing he would be prosecuted for the crime. His wife’s hagiography of him was a key part of the ‘Lost Cause’ movement of the 1890s onward – which itself led to the bases’ Confederate names.
Fort Polk, Louisiana
Home of the Joint Readiness Training Center. Named on opening in 1941 for General (and bishop) Leonidas Polk
Polk quit a brief Army career to become an Episcopal priest but was estimated to have as many as 400 slaves in the 1850s. So keen on secession that he set up a Confederate church, his brief military experience earned him commission as major-general. Led troops at a series of defeats including Shiloh and was regarded as a poor tactician disliked by those he led. Killed by shellfire at Atlanta after being spotted personally by Sherman.
Fort Rucker, Alabama
Home to Army Aviation Center of Excellence. Renamed from Ozark Triangular Division Camp in 1942 for Brigadier General Edmund Rucker
Rucker volunteered as a private and rose quickly, playing a key role at the Confederate victory at Chickamauga but was captured and freed in a prisoner swap organized by Nathan Bedford Forrest. Was with Forrest when Union prisoners were systematically massacred at Pillow Hill, and worked with him after surrender, when Forrest established the KKK.