The Pentagon, headquarters of the Department of Defense
The Pentagon, headquarters of the Department of Defense

With less than a month to go before he is forced to leave office, Don­ald Trump suf­fered anoth­er polit­i­cal defeat today when the Unit­ed States House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives vot­ed to over­ride his veto of the 2020 William M. (Mac) Thorn­ber­ry Nation­al Defense Autho­riza­tion Act.

This is the first time that the House has over­ri­den a Trump veto. The vote on pas­sage (Objec­tions of the Pres­i­dent to the Con­trary Notwith­stand­ing) was three hun­dred and twen­ty-two to eighty-sev­en. Twen­ty Democ­rats vot­ed against over­rid­ing Trump, along with six­ty-six Repub­li­cans and one independent.

The Sen­ate is expect­ed to join the over­ride par­ty with­in a few days.

“With this over­whelm­ing­ly bipar­ti­san vote, the House has upheld our sacred Con­sti­tu­tion­al respon­si­bil­i­ty to keep our coun­try and our peo­ple safe,” said Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi. “The Nation­al Defense Autho­riza­tion Act has been passed on a bipar­ti­san and bicam­er­al man­ner for six­ty years, and it will become law, despite the President’s dan­ger­ous sab­o­tage efforts.”

“The President’s reck­less veto would have denied our ser­vice­mem­bers haz­ard duty pay; our fam­i­lies paid fam­i­ly leave, child care, hous­ing improve­ments and health pro­tec­tions; and our vet­er­ans their ben­e­fits,” Pelosi added.

“It would have sense­less­ly deprived our allies and coun­try of key pro­tec­tions for glob­al peace and secu­ri­ty — includ­ing for cyber-secu­ri­ty, fol­low­ing a mas­sive attack on our coun­try.  And it would have under­mined our nation’s val­ues and work to com­bat racism, by block­ing over­whelm­ing­ly bipar­ti­san action to rename mil­i­tary bases and infra­struc­ture after offi­cials who served in the Confederacy.”

“The Pres­i­dent must end his eleventh-hour cam­paign of chaos, and stop using his final moments in office to obstruct bipar­ti­san and bicam­er­al action to pro­tect our mil­i­tary and defend our secu­ri­ty,” Pelosi declared.

Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez, Rashi­da Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Ayan­na Press­ley, Mark Pocan and our own Prami­la Jaya­pal were among the twen­ty stal­wart pro­gres­sive Democ­rats who vot­ed against the veto over­ride, though their objec­tions to the leg­is­la­tion dif­fer from many of the Repub­li­cans who also vot­ed not to override.

Jaya­pal out­lined her think­ing on the 2020 Nation­al Defense Autho­riza­tion Act in a state­ment sent to NPI ear­li­er this month.

“My posi­tion on defense spend­ing has been clear from the start: We are sim­ply spend­ing too much on the Pen­ta­gon, an agency that con­tin­ues to func­tion with­out a full audit and with tremen­dous waste of tax­pay­er dol­lars, with­out ben­e­fit to nation­al secu­ri­ty,” observed Jaya­pal in a Decem­ber 12th press release.

“Pen­ta­gon spend­ing has become a way to ensure give­aways to defense con­trac­tors who relent­less­ly lob­by for and prof­it off of our country’s unsus­tain­able mil­i­tary bud­get. As a result, I opposed the NDAA con­fer­ence report.”

“I had orig­i­nal­ly hoped that we would be able to get oth­er crit­i­cal­ly need­ed restraints on unau­tho­rized and end­less wars — through repeal­ing the 2002 AUMF, work­ing to end US par­tic­i­pa­tion in the war in Yemen, and stop­ping arms sales to Sau­di Ara­bia. The orig­i­nal House bill also pro­hib­it­ed Pres­i­dent Trump from draw­ing down mil­i­tary funds to build his van­i­ty wall.”

“How­ev­er, these very pro­vi­sions were stripped out by Repub­li­cans,” Jaya­pal lament­ed. “It would have been hard to vote for the bill with those pro­vi­sions but with­out them, it was impos­si­ble. I do appre­ci­ate Chair­man Adam Smith push­ing for these pro­vi­sions through the process, and I am proud that my crit­i­cal amend­ment to dri­ve cuts to mil­i­tary spend­ing in 2020 and 2021, by requir­ing a series of com­pre­hen­sive, inde­pen­dent stud­ies to guide those cuts.”

“It is also an enor­mous vic­to­ry that the bill includes twelve weeks of paid fam­i­ly leave for all fed­er­al gov­ern­ment employ­ees. It is a big win for the two mil­lion Amer­i­cans who work for the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and we must do all we can to extend this ben­e­fit to all Amer­i­can families.”

“I intend to con­tin­ue to work hard to rein in defense spend­ing and invest more resources in pro­grams that pro­mote peace, pro­tect our plan­et, and pro­vide the Amer­i­can peo­ple more oppor­tu­ni­ty here at home.”

NPI agrees with Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jaya­pal. We are spend­ing far, far too much mon­ey on tanks, fight­er jets, stealth ships and oth­er weapon­ry in this coun­try. There is woe­ful­ly insuf­fi­cient over­sight of the Pen­tagon’s bud­get, and we award far too many waste­ful defense con­tracts. There is lit­tle inter­est in Con­gress in demand­ing that our mil­i­tary prac­tice effec­tive pro­cure­ment. That needs to change.

That said, we are also appre­cia­tive of Adam Smith’s efforts to move us forward.

Smith had this to say about the suc­cess­ful veto override:

“Today the House reit­er­at­ed – in a resound­ing, bipar­ti­san way – that our ser­vice mem­bers and nation­al secu­ri­ty are more impor­tant than pol­i­tics. By over­rid­ing the President’s veto, the House pri­or­i­tized com­pro­mise and sound pol­i­cy over leg­isla­tive nihilism and blind polit­i­cal loy­al­ty. By over­rid­ing the President’s veto, the House assert­ed the role of the leg­isla­tive branch and under­scored the impor­tance of our con­sti­tu­tion­al sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers. But most impor­tant­ly, today’s veto over­ride ensures that our ser­vice mem­bers and their fam­i­lies have the resources they need to con­tin­ue to exe­cute their mis­sions and defend our country.”

The roll call from the Pacif­ic North­west was as follows:

Vot­ing To Over­ride Trump’s Veto: Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, and Den­ny Heck (WA), Peter DeFazio (OR); Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Jaime Her­rera Beut­ler, Dan New­house, and Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers (WA), Greg Walden (OR), Mike Simp­son (ID), Greg Gian­forte (MT), Don Young (AK)

Vot­ing To Sus­tain Trump’s Veto: Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Prami­la Jaya­pal (WA), Suzanne Bonam­i­ci and Earl Blu­me­nauer (OR), Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Russ Fulcher (ID)

The Con­sti­tu­tion stip­u­lates that a bill vetoed by the Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States can be over­rid­den with a two-thirds vote of each cham­ber of Congress:

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and the Sen­ate, shall, before it become a Law, be pre­sent­ed to the Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objec­tions to that House in which it shall have orig­i­nat­ed, who shall enter the Objec­tions at large on their Jour­nal, and pro­ceed to recon­sid­er it. If after such Recon­sid­er­a­tion two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, togeth­er with the Objec­tions, to the oth­er House, by which it shall like­wise be recon­sid­ered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law.

– Excerpt from Arti­cle I, Sec­tion 7 of the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion

Repub­li­cans con­trol the Sen­ate and have enough mem­bers in the House of the Rep­re­sen­ta­tives to sus­tain any Trump veto, so it is sig­nif­i­cant that Trump’s loud­ly announced veto of the bipar­ti­san NDAA isn’t going to hold up.

It is wide­ly known that Trump can­not bear los­ing, but los­ing is pret­ty much all he’s been doing late­ly, aside from par­don­ing his crim­i­nal cronies.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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