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

Despite hav­ing been vetoed by Don­ald Trump, the 2020 William M. (Mac) Thorn­ber­ry Nation­al Defense Autho­riza­tion Act (NDAA) has now become law after the Unit­ed States Sen­ate joined the U.S. House in over­rid­ing Don­ald Trump’s veto by an extreme­ly lop­sided mar­gin of eighty-one to thir­teen.

The NDAA, as its name sug­gests, is the vehi­cle that Con­gress uses to make mil­i­tary and defense appro­pri­a­tions. It is one of the few recur­ring pieces of leg­is­la­tion that still typ­i­cal­ly receives broad bipar­ti­san sup­port from mem­bers of Con­gress, who tend to be extreme­ly afflu­ent (about one in two mem­bers of Con­gress are mil­lion­aires) and sup­port­ive of ever-big­ger bud­gets for the Pentagon.

The House got the veto over­ride par­ty start­ed on Mon­day when it vot­ed over­whelm­ing­ly for the imple­men­ta­tion of H.R. 6395.

The bill has pro­vi­sions in it that Don­ald Trump does not like, includ­ing one secured by Sen­a­tor Eliz­a­beth War­ren that gets the ball rolling on renam­ing all the mil­i­tary bases absurd­ly named for trai­tor­ous Con­fed­er­ate generals.

Con­sid­er­a­tion of the veto over­ride had been held up by Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders (I‑Vermont), who has been demand­ing the Sen­ate pass leg­is­la­tion to autho­rize $2,000 direct pay­ments for Amer­i­cans for COVID-19 relief.

All of the Democ­rats in the Sen­ate sup­port vot­ing on the leg­is­la­tion to autho­rize the $2,000 pay­ments, but most Democ­rats were unwill­ing to risk the veto over­ride not get­ting done before the cur­rent Con­gress is forced to adjourn on Sunday.

“I just took to the floor again to demand a vote on $2,000 sur­vival checks,” said Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic Leader Chuck Schumer on Twit­ter after the suc­cess­ful over­ride, keep­ing the focus on Democ­rats’ COVID-19 relief efforts.

“Sen­a­tor Thune (R‑SD) object­ed. Sen­a­tor Sanders again demand­ed a vote on $2000 checks— and then on Sen­a­tor McConnell’s own bill. Sen­a­tor Cornyn object­ed (R‑TX) for Sen­a­tor Toomey (R‑PA). Democ­rats will not stop fighting.”

The roll call from the Pacif­ic North­west was as follows:

Vot­ing To Over­ride Trump’s Veto: Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Pat­ty Mur­ray and Maria Cantwell (WA), Jon Tester (MT); Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors Jim Risch and Mike Crapo (ID), Steve Daines (MT), Lisa Murkows­ki and Dan Sul­li­van (AK)

Vot­ing To Sus­tain Trump’s Veto: Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley (OR)

The oth­er eleven sen­a­tors who vot­ed nay were Cory Book­er (New Jer­sey), Mike Braun (Indi­ana), Tom Cot­ton (Arkansas), Ted Cruz (Texas), Josh Haw­ley (Mis­souri), John Kennedy (Louisiana), Mike Lee (Utah), Ed Markey and Eliz­a­beth War­ren (Mass­a­chu­setts), Rand Paul (Ken­tucky), and Bernie Sanders (Ver­mont).

Kel­ly Loef­fler and David Per­due of Geor­gia, who are fight­ing for their polit­i­cal lives in a pair of runoff elec­tions that will con­clude on Jan­u­ary 5th, did not vote. Nei­ther did Repub­li­cans Cory Gard­ner (Col­orado), Lind­sey Gra­ham (South Car­oli­na) or Ben Sasse (Nebras­ka). Doug Jones of Alaba­ma also missed the vote.

The NDAA would do the fol­low­ing, as sum­ma­rized by

The bill autho­rizes appro­pri­a­tions to DOD for

  • Pro­cure­ment, includ­ing air­craft, weapons and tracked com­bat vehi­cles, ship­build­ing and con­ver­sion, and missiles;
  • Research, Devel­op­ment, Test, and Evaluation;
  • Oper­a­tion and Maintenance;
  • Work­ing Cap­i­tal Funds;
  • Chem­i­cal Agents and Muni­tions Destruction;
  • Drug Inter­dic­tion and Counter-Drug Activities;
  • the Defense Inspec­tor General;
  • the Nation­al Defense Sealift Fund;
  • the Defense Health Program;
  • the Armed Forces Retire­ment Home;
  • the Space Force;
  • Over­seas Con­tin­gency Oper­a­tions; and
  • Mil­i­tary Construction.

The bill also autho­rizes the FY2021 per­son­nel strengths for active duty and reserve forces and sets forth poli­cies regarding

  • mil­i­tary personnel;
  • acqui­si­tion pol­i­cy and management;
  • inter­na­tion­al programs;
  • Nation­al Guard and Reserve Force facilities;
  • com­pen­sa­tion and oth­er per­son­nel benefits;
  • health care;
  • mat­ters relat­ing to COVID-19 (i.e., coro­n­avirus dis­ease 2019);
  • DOD orga­ni­za­tion and management;
  • civil­ian per­son­nel matters;
  • mat­ters relat­ing to for­eign nations; and
  • strate­gic pro­grams, cyber, and intel­li­gence matters.

The bill autho­rizes appro­pri­a­tions for base realign­ment and clo­sure activ­i­ties, and mar­itime matters.

The bill autho­rizes appro­pri­a­tions and sets forth poli­cies for Depart­ment of Ener­gy nation­al secu­ri­ty pro­grams, includ­ing the Nation­al Nuclear Secu­ri­ty Admin­is­tra­tion and the Defense Nuclear Facil­i­ties Safe­ty Board.

The bill also sets forth poli­cies regard­ing cer­tain fed­er­al activ­i­ties relat­ed to arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, includ­ing imple­men­ta­tion by the Pres­i­dent of a Nation­al Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Ini­tia­tive to sup­port research and devel­op­ment, edu­ca­tion, and train­ing programs.

The Unit­ed States Sen­ate is rarely in ses­sion on New Year’s Day, but Trump’s veto forced Mitch McConnell (who loves big gov­ern­ment, as long as it’s a cer­tain kind of big gov­ern­ment) to sched­ule a spe­cial hol­i­day ses­sion in order to get the NDAA approved as one of the cham­ber’s final acts of the cur­rent Congress.

H.R. 6395 is the first bill to have been imple­ment­ed by Con­gress over the objec­tions of Don­ald Trump through a veto override.

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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