GOP urges Trump not to tank defense bill over tech fight

GOP urges Trump not to tank defense bill over tech fight
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Republicans on Wednesday signaled that President TrumpDonald TrumpSchumer: Impeachment trial will be quick, doesn't need a lot of witnesses Nurse to be tapped by Biden as acting surgeon general: report Schumer calls for Biden to declare climate emergency MORE should not sink a must-pass defense policy bill over a fight with tech companies.

Trump, in a late-night tweet, vowed to veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) if it doesn’t include a repeal of Section 230, a provision that shields tech companies from liability for third-party content posted on their platforms.

But several top GOP senators are warning that the defense bill isn’t the right arena for Trump to dig in on the tech battle, which has emerged as a top target for the president and conservative allies.


“230 has nothing to do with the military," said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeOvernight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage Senate confirms Austin to lead Pentagon under Biden Justice Dept. closes insider trading case against Burr without charges MORE (R-Okla.). "I agree with his sentiments ... but you can’t do it in this bill. That’s not a part of the bill."

Inhofe confirmed that language repealing Section 230 will not be in the final defense bill. He said he conveyed that to the president and hopes — but doesn't know if — Trump will sign it.

"Well, we just had an honest disagreement, very friendly," Inhofe said.

Sen. Mike RoundsMike RoundsThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Focus on vaccine, virus, travel Senators spar over validity of Trump impeachment trial Sunday shows - Biden agenda, Trump impeachment trial dominate MORE (R-S.D.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, said he thought Trump was trying to express his frustration related to Section 230.

"I would hope that he would not actually follow through with that because the NDAA is critical," he said about the veto threat.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump, allies raise pressure on Senate GOP ahead of impeachment The Hill's Morning Report - Biden's crisis agenda hits headwinds Senate chaos threatens to slow Biden's agenda MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said that there was broad interest in reforming Section 230, but pointed to the Commerce Committee as the best area to take that up. He said he hoped the defense bill would be passed and signed into law without "a lot of drama.”


"I don't think the defense bill is the place to litigate that," Thune said. "There will be enormous support for getting the defense authorization bill passed and hopefully signed into law."

Asked if he was saying he did not think Section 230 should be a part of the NDAA, Thune added: "There's a normal legislative path for dealing with Section 230 ... that would be my preference."

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSchumer calls for Biden to declare climate emergency House formally sends impeachment to Senate, putting Trump on trial for Capitol riot Rubio reintroduces amendment to block court packing MORE (R-Fla.), the acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, added that he was supportive of “doing something about” Section 230 but questioned if the NDAA was the place to push the issue.

“I don't know if vetoing would be the right approach because of the damage it would inflict,” he said. "I'm just not convinced that NDAA would be the right place to make that stand."

Trump threatened to veto the NDAA on Tuesday night if a repeal of Section 230 wasn’t included.

“Section 230, which is a liability shielding gift from the U.S. to 'Big Tech' (the only companies in America that have it - corporate welfare!), is a serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity. Our Country can never be safe & secure if we allow it to stand,” Trump tweeted.

“Therefore, if the very dangerous & unfair Section 230 is not completely terminated as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), I will be forced to unequivocally VETO the Bill when sent to the very beautiful Resolute desk. Take back America NOW. Thank you!” Trump added.

The White House previously floated that it could drop its objection to separate language renaming Confederate-named bases if a repeal of Section 230 was included. But House Democrats panned the offer and Inhofe indicated on Wednesday that the language is staying in place.

Instead, Reps. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Biden lifts Trump's transgender military ban | Democrats, advocates celebrate end of ban | 5,000 guardsmen staying in DC through mid-March Biden lifting Trump's transgender military ban Overnight Defense: House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee | Biden to seek five-year extension of key arms control pact with Russia | Two more US service members killed by COVID-19 MORE (D-Wash.) and Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryUnnamed law enforcement banned under the new NDAA Lobbying world Senate poised to override Trump's defense bill veto MORE (R-Texas), the chairman and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, respectively, said in a joint statement that the “time has come” to put aside “policy objectives and partisan preferences” and pass the NDAA.

Rep. Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerCheney tests Trump grip on GOP post-presidency National Guard back inside Capitol after having been moved to parking garage Budowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated MORE (R-Ill.), meanwhile, vowed on Wednesday that he would vote to override Trump's veto, if he issues one, "because it’s really not about" the president.

Though there’s broader interest in reforming or repealing Section 230, Trump and his allies have homed in on the issue as they’ve ramped up criticism against Facebook and Twitter.

Some GOP senators said on Wednesday that they would be supportive of Trump vetoing the defense bill.

"I'm quite alright with him not signing it because I think that 230 repeal ought to be in it,” said Sen. Mike BraunMichael BraunBiden signals he's willing to delay Trump trial McConnell proposes postponing impeachment trial until February The Hill's Morning Report - Biden takes office, calls for end to 'uncivil war' MORE (R-Ind.).

Asked if he was supportive of Trump vetoing the NDAA, Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenators spar over validity of Trump impeachment trial Trump selects South Carolina lawyer for impeachment trial Democrats formally elect Harrison as new DNC chair MORE (R-S.C.), a close Trump ally, said that he was supportive of Trump “using all the leverage he can.”

— Updated at 3:15 p.m.