BATH — The House has overwhelmingly passed a $741 billion defense bill, but President Trump is still threatening to veto the bill unless lawmakers add language removing a legal shield for social media companies.

The 2021 National Defense Authorization Act directs how federal funds should be used by Defense Department with a veto-proof 335-78 margin on Tuesday. The policy bill approves two new Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, one of which will be built at Bath Iron Works, and gives a 3% pay raise to military personnel. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill in the coming days, according to Politico.

Should Trump veto the bill, Congress can override it with a two-thirds vote, but Janet Martin, a government professor at Bowdoin College, fears that might not be possible because “Democrats themselves don’t have enough people for a two-thirds vote.”

“There have been some Republicans breaking ranks, but I don’t know if enough of them will join the Democrats in overriding the veto,” said Martin.

Independent Sen. Angus King said Wednesday he will “absolutely vote to override” a veto from Trump and “encourage my colleagues to do the same.”

“By vetoing this legislation, the President would be undermining national security, threatening the livelihoods of Maine’s shipbuilders, delaying long-overdue updates to our nation’s cyber defenses, and preventing our nation’s servicemembers from receiving a deserved pay raise,” King said. “If the President makes the mistake of attempting to block this bill, especially over a provision involving the regulation of the internet which has no connection to national security, I will absolutely vote to override his veto and encourage my colleagues to do the same.”

Craig Hooper, CEO of the Themistocles Advisory Group, a national security advisory firm out of Maryland, said a veto from Trump wouldn’t have a significant impact on Maine shipbuilding “assuming, of course, that the wheels of government keep turning.”

Neither Hooper nor Martin knew what would happen if Congress fails to override. Martin said the defense bill would likely get passed after President-Elect Joe Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20.

“I think everything is in question because we don’t have any sense of normalcy in government until the new administration,” said Martin.

“Vetoing the defense bill usually comes down to military priorities or spending, but the military is always part of the debate,” added Martin. “I don’t think I’ve seen a non-defense issue added to a defense bill. It’s so obscure and I don’t understand why the President wants it at this point in time.”

Trump threatened to veto the bill unless it contains language repealing that legally shields online companies including social media platforms from being liable for what users post on the online platform, understanding that the company is not the “publisher” of that content. The provision also gives companies the right to “restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.”

Previous presidents, including Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton have vetoed a National Defense Authorization Act during their tenure. However, those presidents vetoed the bill because they wanted to remove language rather than add, according to Hooper.

In a Tuesday tweet, Trump wrote: “I hope House Republicans will vote against the very weak National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which I will veto. Must include a termination of Section 230 (for national security purposes), preserve our national monuments, and allow for 5G troop reductions in foreign lands!”

Some Maine lawmakers criticized Trump last week for threatening to withhold pay raises from troops over his personal vendetta with social media companies.

Last week, Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, wrote there’s “bipartisan agreement that Section 230 should be reformed, but for the Commander-in-Chief to threaten a veto of the entire NDAA over something that has nothing to do with our military is plain reckless.”

Trump’s relationship with Twitter has soured since the election after many of his tweets claiming election fraud were, and continue to be, marked as “disputed” by the company.

Attorney General William Barr declared last week the U.S. Justice Department has uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election, according to the Associated Press.

Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat, and Pingree each released statements following the vote supporting the defense bill because of what it does for Mainers.

“I’m proud to continue working with Democrats and Republicans to ensure our nation’s servicemembers have what they need to defend this country,” Golden wrote Wednesday. “Whether that’s vehicles and equipment, like Bath-built ships, or providing a pay raise for our troops, this bill supplies crucial support for a variety of issues critical to our national security and to Maine.”

Republican Sen. Susan Collins didn’t return requests for comment Wednesday, but released a statement last week voicing her support for the defense bill, calling it “a critical bill that sets policy for our nation’s military and national defense priorities.”

“Congress has passed this important bill every year for nearly six decades, and this year must not be any different.”


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