Congress pushes defense bill forward despite Trump’s veto threat

An aerial shot of part of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is seen near the top of the photo. FILE
An aerial shot of part of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is seen near the top of the photo. FILE

Congress pushed ahead the latest defense policy bill Wednesday, despite President Donald Trump’s threat of a veto unless legislators tore down the Internet’s legal liability shield: Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.

“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 Tuesday evening.

He added: “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 has threatened to veto the bill before, over the possibility of the Pentagon renaming military installations currently named after Confederate leaders.

Nevertheless, it appeared the bill was headed for passage Wednesday afternoon, without any language addressing Trump’s latest objection.

The $740.5 billion defense policy authorization bill includes an annual pay raise for service members, addresses staffing issues, weapons systems priorities and hundreds of other defense policy matters. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate passed their versions of the defense bill with veto-proof majorities, Politico reported.

Section 230 protects big social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter from being sued over content posted on their platforms.

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, was meeting with other NDAA conferees Wednesday to continue work towards a final defense bill that can become law, Turner’s office said when asked for a response to Trump’s tweets. Turner is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

“I have been fighting to ensure that Ohio’s military priorities are included in the annual defense funding bill and once finalized I would urge the president to sign it into law,” Sen. Rob Portman said in a statement from his office Wednesday.

“This is yet another example of the president abusing his power over a personal grievance,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown. “There is no language in the House or Senate NDAA bills that mentions repealing section 230.”

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base did well in what was then the emerging NDAA for fiscal year 2021, area congressional members said this summer.

The National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson — better known simply as “NASIC” — was set to see its cooling system significantly upgraded, Portman and Turner said earlier this year.

Based at Wright-Patterson, NASIC was slated to get $35 million for construction of a new “energy resilient conservation investment program,” an energy efficiency project for NASIC, which is now getting a new headquarters on Wright-Patterson.

“They have an existing cooling system that needs to be redone; these are big, expensive systems,” Portman told the Dayton Daily News in July. “And right now they have downtime with their equipment because it’s failing. They have data loss, and so they have convinced the Air Force this is a priority, and they’ve convinced us it’s a priority. And we got it in there.”

In all, a total of $58.5 million in military construction funding was secured for Wright-Patterson, as part of the House’s version of the NDAA for fiscal 2021, Turner’s office said last summer.

This included funding for a pair of Wright-Patterson projects on which both the House and Senate agreed: $35 million for an Energy Resilience and Conservation Investment Program to build an Intelligence Facility Central Utility Plant for NASIC, as well as $23.5 million to replace a hydrant fuel system, Turner’s office said.

With those projects and the $182 million expansion at NASIC, Wright-Patterson has gained more than $240 million from the House Armed Services Committee in the past three years, Turner also said earlier this year.

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