Senate passes defense bill, setting up Trump veto fight

The Senate passed a mammoth defense policy bill on Friday, setting up a veto showdown with President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden says Roe v. Wade under attack like 'never before' On student loans, Biden doesn't have an answer yet Grill company apologizes after sending meatloaf recipe on same day of rock star's death MORE.

Senators overwhelmingly supported the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in an 84-13 vote, approving it with more than the two-thirds majority that would be needed to override a potential veto from President Trump, who opposes the legislation on two points. 

The bill already passed the House this week in a 355-78 vote, meaning it now goes to Trump, where he’ll have to decide if he is going to follow through with his veto threat despite bipartisan opposition. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Top Republicans touted the bill ahead of Friday, underscoring the division between the president and congressional Republican leaders. 

“It does not contain every policy that either side would like to pass, but a huge number of crucial policies are included and a lot of bad ideas were kept out. So I would encourage all our colleagues to vote to advance this must-pass bill,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell says he made 'inadvertent omission' in voting remarks amid backlash These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 WATCH: The Hill recaps the top stories of the week MORE (R-Ky.). 

Trump has homed in on two issues. One is his months-long fight over a plan, included in the final version of the bill, that would require Confederate bases and military installations to be renamed within three years. Though senators had hoped that he had backed down from that fight, Trump shouted out the provision in a tweet this week.

More recently he’s hammered the bill over not including a repeal of Section 230, which provides a legal shield to tech companies and has emerged as a prime punching bag for the president and his allies. The bill also rebuffs Trump’s efforts to draw down troops in Germany and Afghanistan.

Though the bill passed both chambers this week with enough votes to override a veto, there could be a shuffling on an override vote with some GOP lawmakers flipping to stick with Trump and some Democrats who opposed the bill supporting an override. 

Republicans say there have been efforts to talk Trump down from his veto threat, which could imperil a bill that typically passes with overwhelming bipartisan support and has been signed into law for 59 years in a row. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“My hope is that if the number is big enough that the president reconsiders his threat to veto it. It's clear what the final outcome will be,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products Senators introduce bill aimed at protecting Ukrainian civilians Lawmakers press Biden admin to send more military aid to Ukraine MORE (R-Texas). 

But Trump has shown no signs of backing down from trying to sink the bill, and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeOvernight Defense & National Security — White House raises new alarm over Russia Biden sparks confusion, cleanup on Russia-Ukraine remarks Republicans say Mayorkas failed to deliver report on evacuated Afghans MORE (R-Okla.), who spoke with the president this week, said he expects him to veto it. 

The language on Afghanistan temporarily snagged passage of the bill after Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 I'm furious about Democrats taking the blame — it's time to fight back Rand Paul cancels DirecTV subscription after it drops OAN MORE (R-Ky.) warned that he was slow-walking the legislation. Paul had wanted leadership to agree to delay the final vote until Monday, an effort leadership said was really an attempt to delay the veto override vote. 

“Our main point in filibustering the defense authorization bill was to point out that the president should have the prerogative to end a war, not just to start wars,” Paul said on Friday. 

Trump’s threat has also complicated support for the defense bill. 

Though House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyMask rules spark political games and a nasty environment in the House Effort to overhaul archaic election law wins new momentum Watch: GOP leaders discuss Biden's first year in office MORE (R-Calif.) voted for it this week, he has vowed that he won’t support a veto override.

GOP Sens. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyMissouri Senate candidate says Congress members should go to jail if guilty of insider trading On The Money — Ban on stock trading for Congress gains steam The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Schumer tees up doomed election reform vote MORE (R-Mo.) and Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonSunday shows preview: US reaffirms support for Ukraine amid threat of Russian invasion Senate's antitrust bill would raise consumer prices and lower our competitiveness Sinema scuttles hopes for filibuster reform MORE (R-Ark.), two 2024 hopefuls who supported the Senate’s bill earlier this year, warned that they would oppose the final version of the bill. 

“The NDAA does NOT contain any reform to Section 230 but DOES contain Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenArizona Democratic Party executive board censures Sinema Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Biden stiff arms progressives on the Postal Service MORE’s social engineering amendment to unilaterally rename bases & war memorials w/ no public input or process. I cannot support it,” Hawley tweeted, referring to the Massachusetts Democratic senator. 

Cotton said the bill “stiff arms” the president. 

"As this massive bill was written and then rushed to a vote, some seem to have forgotten to consult with the commander in chief or recall that he has a veto power,” Cotton said. 

Neither chamber has been able to successfully override one of Trump’s vetoes during his administration.

But a veto of the defense bill will represent one of the biggest challenges to Trump’s relationships with congressional Republicans to date and comes as he’s already mired in a weeks-long fight over President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenSunday shows preview: US reaffirms support for Ukraine amid threat of Russian invasion The Fed has a clear mandate to mitigate climate risks Biden says Roe v. Wade under attack like 'never before' MORE’s victory that has emerged as a division point among GOP lawmakers. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Top Republicans have hinted they are willing to override a veto in an unprecedented break with Trump, but they are hoping to convince him to back down. 

Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyHow Kevin McCarthy sold his soul to Donald Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks, Senate balks Supreme Court rejects Trump's bid to shield records from Jan. 6 committee MORE (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 House Republican, said “ the president should not veto it. And we should override.”

And Inhofe — who, like most Republicans, has stuck closely to Trump — has vowed to support a potential veto override. 

“He says he's gonna veto. But he also knows, and I told him how significant it was,” he said. "It's the most important bill of the year.”