Lawmakers release compromise defense bill without Section 230 repeal

Anna Moneymaker

Lawmakers on Thursday officially unveiled a compromise defense bill that excludes President Trump’s demanded repeal of a key liability protection for online tech platforms.

The compromise National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes a requirement that the Pentagon rename Confederate-named military bases in three years.

Trump has threatened to veto the NDAA over both issues.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said Wednesday that Trump is prepared to accept the language on renaming bases, though White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the same day she was unsure if Trump’s position has changed and highlighted his past objection to the language from over the summer.

On Tuesday night, Trump threatened to veto the bill if it did not include a repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a 1996 law that gives online platforms liability protection for content posted by third parties while allowing them to make good-faith content moderation efforts.

Trump and his Republican allies argue that Section 230 allows social media companies to discriminate against conservative content, a claim that has not been substantiated.

Despite Trump’s veto threat, lawmakers said Wednesday they were moving forward with an NDAA that does not address Section 230 in any way.

Democrats and several Republicans said the defense bill is not the appropriate place to address a tech law that has little if anything to do with national security. But a couple of Trump’s staunchest allies in Congress have backed his play.

On Thursday, before the compromise bill was officially released, Trump doubled down on his demand.

“Looks like certain Republican Senators are getting cold feet with respect to the termination of Big Tech’s Section 230, a National Security and Election Integrity MUST,” he tweeted. “For years, all talk, no action. Termination must be put in Defense Bill!!!”

Senior Democratic and Republican staffers on the House and Senate Armed Services committees told reporters on a background call Thursday evening they are not yet planning for what do if Trump follows through on his threat, saying they are still hoping he signs the bill.

“The president will do what president will do, and then the leadership of the House and Senate will decide how they’re going to react should the president do something other than sign the bill into law,” said a senior Democratic House Armed Services aide.

The NDAA is considered must-pass legislation because it authorizes a slew of routine and important Pentagon programs, as well as a pay raise, hazard pay and dozens of other types of special pay and bonuses for troops.

This year’s $740 billion bill also includes language aimed at strengthening the Pentagon’s pandemic preparedness in light of the COVID-19 crisis and establishes a fund meant to deter China in the Indo-Pacific region.

“The NDAA is one of the few pieces of legislation Congress passes year after year — because both parties and both houses recognize how important it is to honor our commitments to our men and women in uniform and to secure our national defense,” Inhofe and Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said in a joint statement Thursday. “We look forward to passing, for the 60th straight year, a Conference Report that does just that.”

Updated at 7:35 p.m.

Tags Confederate base names Confederate names Donald Trump Jack Reed James Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act NDAA Section 230
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