The National Defense Authorization Act

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The National Defense Authorization Act
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This is the top story from our daily newsletter published on December 14, 2020. To have this and more delivered directly to your inbox scroll down and enter your email or click here to sign up. Photo Credit: U.S. Sailors stand at parade rest during a Change of Command ceremony aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) in Subic Bay, Philippines. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Benjamin F. Davella III. Public Domain)

Top story from Reuters: “President Donald Trump on Sunday repeated his threat to veto a massive defense policy bill. The $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed both houses of Congress with more than the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto. Trump previously objected to the fiscal 2021 NDAA because it did not repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects technology companies like Alphabet’s Google, Twitter, and Facebook from liability for what appears on their platforms.” Here’s what both sides are saying about the National Defense Authorization Act or NDAA.

On the Right: Conservatives and right-leaning commentators agree with Trump that something needs to be done about Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, but they also think tackling Section 230 has nothing to do with passing a military spending bill. For example, the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board likes how “this year’s iteration includes several good provisions toughening U.S. China policy” and “authorizes programs for overhauling an aging nuclear deterrent, a Trump priority.” They also conceded that “Section 230 might deserve some limits given how broadly courts have interpreted its liability protections.” They also note, however, that “eliminating it could have major economic consequences that Congress might later regret, and this shouldn’t be rushed through with only token debate.” In conclusion, they point out that “President Trump deserves credit for rebuilding America’s armed forces,” but “it’s a pity his parting shot is a veto spectacle over a defense policy bill.”

On the Left: Democrats and left-leaning outlets share similar concerns, however, their criticism is much more direct. For example, The Washington Post Editorial Board believes, “Trump’s attack on the NDAA is ridiculous — and dangerous.” Like the WSJ Editorial Board, they believe “there is much that is laudable in this year’s NDAA… yet, Mr. Trump has focused his ire on a matter that has next to nothing to do with the NDAA’s text, or even with national defense: Section 230.” The WaPo Ed Board says this “fits a pattern of the president lashing out against platforms when they personally displease him.” Joel Mathis of the Week said, “On one hand, it is good in these deeply polarized times that Democrats and Republicans can come together for bipartisan cooperation on any topic at all. On the other hand, it is also incredibly frustrating. Why can’t GOP members of the House and Senate find their spines when Trump is threatening to usurp more than two centuries of constitutional governance by falsely claiming that Democrats stole the presidential election he lost?” In conclusion, the WaPo writes that “Congress ought to override a veto that uses a presidential pet peeve with Section 230 as an excuse to nix an otherwise perfectly good defense bill.”

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: According to Roll Call, “Trump [has also] threatened to veto the bill if it required name changes at military installations that honor Confederates, such as Fort Benning in Georgia, where two hotly contested Senate runoff elections are set for January.” In June we outlined what both sides are saying about removing and/or renaming Confederate Statues. As for the public’s attitude towards US military expenses, a “near-record 62% of Americans say national defense strength is about right,” according to Gallup’s latest poll. For context, 31% said the US spends too much and 17% said we spend too little. In terms of what’s next, Trump now has nine days to veto the NDAA, sign it, or allow it to become law without his signature.