Trump defends veto of massive US defence spending bill

In series of Saturday morning tweets, US president repeats claim $740bn legislation is a ‘gift to Russia and China’.

President Donald Trump has defended his decision to veto legislation authorising the United States military’s $740bn annual budget, saying in a series of Saturday morning tweets that the bill is a “travesty”.

Trump vetoed the legislation, which has bipartisan support in the US Congress, including from senior members of the US president’s Republican Party, on Tuesday.

“Our $740 [sic] defense bill is a gift to China, Russia & Big Tech,” Trump tweeted on Saturday.

He has objected to language in the National Defense Authorization Act that would constrain his ability to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, South Korea and Germany, while also objecting to provisions that would rename military bases and monuments to US Confederate figures.

Trump also wants a section of US law – Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act – that shields social media companies from liability for content posted on their platforms repealed.

“The Act fails to include critical national security measures, includes provisions that fail to respect our veterans and our military’s history, and contradicts efforts by my Administration to put America first in our national security and foreign policy actions,” Trump said in a statement after his veto.

His position is a break from senior Republican leaders in Congress just weeks before he is set to leave office.

The Republican-led Senate supports the defence spending bill, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he would call the Senate back to session on December 29 for a veto override vote.

Both the Senate and the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, which is expected to hold its veto override vote on December 28, need two-thirds majorities to get past Trump’s veto.

The House voted 335 to 78 on December 8 in favour of the bill, while the legislation passed in the Senate by a vote of 84 in favour to 13 against.

COVID bill

Meanwhile, Trump still has not signed into law a $892bn COVID-19 relief bill as millions of Americans are set to lose special unemployment benefits on Saturday.

The coronavirus support, attached to $1.4 trillion government funding legislation that passed in the House and Senate this week, includes a one-time $600 payment to US citizens to help them during the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

The US has reported more than 18.7 million cases of COVID-19 since the crisis began and more than 330,000 deaths linked to the novel coronavirus, according to a tally from the Johns Hopkins University – the highest totals in the world.

“I simply want to get our great people $2000, rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill,” Trump tweeted on Saturday, about the payments to Americans.

Democrats on Thursday sought to increase the payments to the $2,000 per person that Trump requested, but the president’s fellow Republicans, who oppose the higher amount, blocked the effort.

Trump has not said yet whether he intends to veto the legislation, and he could still sign it in the coming days.

But special unemployment aid is expected to lapse on Saturday due to the delays, US media outlets reported, affecting as many as 14 million Americans. The COVID relief bill would allow people to collect unemployment benefits until March and revive supplemental benefits for millions of people, the New York Times said.

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