House adopts defense conference report as veto threat looms

House leaders have said they would cut the holiday break short, if necessary, to override a veto

Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., conducts the House Armed Services Committee markup of the National Defense Authorization Act in Longworth Building on  July 1.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., conducts the House Armed Services Committee markup of the National Defense Authorization Act in Longworth Building on July 1. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted December 8, 2020 at 6:33pm

The House voted 335-78 on Tuesday to adopt a final version of the $731.6 billion defense authorization measure, setting up a possible end-of-year showdown as President Donald Trump has vowed to veto the legislation.

House leaders have said they would cut the upcoming holiday break short, if necessary, to override the veto. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has not committed to doing the same, saying Tuesday that Trump's veto was not a certainty.

The conference report on the NDAA now awaits a vote in the Senate, expected this week, before lawmakers send the legislation to Trump’s desk. Once Trump receives the measure, he can take up to 10 days, excluding Sundays, to either sign or veto the bill.

But Trump has repeatedly said he would veto the measure over its mandate to change the names of military bases that honor Confederate figures, and its lack of a provision that would repeal legal protections for social media companies.

Language to change the names of the military bases was included in both the House and Senate versions of the bill.

Trump reiterated his displeasure with the measure early Tuesday morning, tweeting “I hope House Republicans will vote against the very weak National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which I will VETO.”

And the Office of Management and Budget re-upped the veto threat in a statement of administration policy just before the House vote.

Top lawmakers in the House, however, said this week they would bring members back to Washington for an override vote — potentially cutting short their recess — should Trump veto the bill.

“If the president vetoes it, we will come back to vote to override,” said House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., said in a conference call with reporters Monday.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., later suggested the same.

The NDAA, which has been enacted annually for 59 consecutive years, sets the Pentagon policies for the coming year and includes thousands of national security provisions including proposals that would authorize pay raises for troops, seek to improve the military’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and modernize the nuclear weapons stockpile.

The House and Senate passed their versions of the bills with veto-proof margins earlier this year.