U.S. House passes $740 billion defense bill; fight with Trump looms

U.S. House passes $740 billion defense bill; fight with Trump looms

The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act, a $740 billion bill setting policy for the Pentagon that President Donald Trump has threatened to veto over a provision removing Confederate names from military bases.

The Democratic-led House backed the measure by 295 to 125, paving the way for negotiations with the Republican-led Senate on a compromise version of the NDAA, which Trump would then sign or veto.

Earlier Tuesday, the White House issued an official announcement that Trump would veto the bill if it required the Defense Department to strip the names of Confederate generals from U.S. military bases.

“Section 2829 is part of a sustained effort to erase from the history of the Nation those who do not meet an ever-shifting standard of conduct,” the White House said in a statement deploring a “left-wing cultural revolution.”

The White House said it also objected to provisions of the House NDAA deemed to impinge upon Trump’s authority, including limits on the use of funds in the war in Afghanistan and controls on deploying National Guard troops within the United States.

State and local leaders have objected to recent deployments of national guard troops during anti-racism demonstrations.

The Republican-led Senate is debating its version of the NDAA this week. The Senate bill also includes a plan to change the names of bases such as Fort Bragg and Fort Benning, which honor men who fought against U.S. troops 155 years ago during the Civil War.

Their names, and statues honoring men who owned slaves or fought on the pro-slavery side, have been targeted in the protests over police brutality across the United States – and the world – sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man, while in police custody in May.

Trump has called protesters “anarchists and agitators.”

The Senate on Tuesday defeated an NDAA amendment that would have blocked the Pentagon from transferring to local police military-grade equipment that has been used against demonstrators. It did approve a measure to provide more training for police and put more controls on such transfers.

A Pentagon spokesman said he expected Congress and the White House would work out their differences. “They understand the importance of the NDAA, and we’re confident… the NDAA will be signed and implemented on time so that we can have a budget for our forces,” he said.

Congress has passed the NDAA for 59 straight years. It is one of the few major pieces of legislation treated as “must-pass” because it governs everything from pay raises and benefit changes for the troops to how many aircraft should be purchased or how best to compete with rivals like Russia and China.

Reuters