Texas’ Ted Cruz, John Cornyn split in Senate vote to overturn Trump’s veto of the $740+ billion annual defense bill

click to enlarge Texas’ Ted Cruz, John Cornyn split in Senate vote to overturn Trump’s veto of the $740+ billion annual defense bill
Wikimedia Commons / Gage Skidmore
In a rare New Year's Day vote, the U.S. Senate voted to overturn a President Donald Trump veto in the twilight days of his presidency. The vote represents the first Congressional veto override of the Trump administration.

At issue was the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual budget and spending bill that addresses all sectors of the Americans armed forces. It was, until this year, one of the few bastions left for bipartisan goodwill, and its markups on Capitol Hill have been a decades-long tradition.

But Trump vetoed the bill. He was unhappy with a provision that would begin the process to rename military bases named for Confederate leaders and he wanted to add language that would address his unrelated but long-held grudge against the tech industry.

The Texans in the Senate were split: U.S. Sen. John Cornyn voted to override the veto, while U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz chose to sustain it. Twelve other senators — a mix of conservatives and liberals — joined Cruz in voting against overriding the veto.

The U.S. House delivered the more than two-thirds of the chambers' votes necessary to override the Trump veto. With this Senate action, the NDAA becomes law.

The new bill will include a number of provisions that will affect many Texans. These include a three percent pay raise, money that will maintain military bases, orders for dozens of new F-35 fighter planes - which are in part manufactured in Fort Worth.

Trump spent recent months lobbying to revoke a legal provision — known as Section 230 — which Congress passed at the infancy of the Internet in order to shield online companies from liability over the content users post. Republicans in both chambers allege, despite data to the contrary collected by the platforms themselves as well as studies by academics and researchers, that social media companies are biased against conservative speech. They argue repealing Section 230 would be a means to combat this perceived unfairness. Trump's advocacy against Section 230 intensified after Twitter began to add language that disputed the veracity of his false electoral tweets.

But many Republicans who in spirit might support such action opposed the vehicle of the NDAA, arguing that defense policy is not where an unrelated commerce issue ought to be litigated. Some Texas conservatives on the House side said they voted against the veto override because they worried the NDAA hamstrung a chief executive's ability to draw down forces from Afghanistan.

In a statement released on Friday explaining his vote, Cruz expressed concerns that touched on all three fronts: Section 230, the renaming of the military bases and the withdrawal of forces. 

“Therefore, I opposed the Senate’s attempt to override President Trump’s veto,” he wrote. “I’ll continue working with my colleagues to protect our national security.” Cruz also called that bill's requirement that the Department of Defense rename military bases named for Confederate leaders a "brazenly political attempt to erase our nation’s history."

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked a final attempt to deliver a $2,000 stimulus payment to most Americans. The stimulus measure had the support of Trump and some Republicans senators and had passed the House earlier this week. The stimulus might come up for another vote at some point during the tenure of the new Congress, which will be sworn in on Sunday.

Despite these contentions, there were glimmers of bipartisanship: House Democrats named the bill in honor of Texas Republican U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry of Clarendon, a former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee who is retiring on Sunday.

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