Defense budget dispute: US Congress overrides Trump veto for the first time

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Dispute over defense budget
US Congress overrides Trump’s veto for the first time

Shortly before the end of his term in office, US President Trump had to take a serious setback: his veto on the defense budget was overturned by the US Congress – even in the Republican-dominated Senate. A US withdrawal from Germany is now off the table.

For the first time during Donald Trump’s tenure, the US Congress overturned a presidential veto. After the House of Representatives, the Senate also overruled Trump’s veto against the legislative package on the US defense budget with the necessary two-thirds majority. The massive legislative package can now come into force despite the absence of Trump’s signature.

The president had opposed the draft law because of a dispute over the regulation of online platforms and a possible renaming of military bases. Now, shortly before the end of his term in office on January 20, he suffered a severe defeat in Congress, where large numbers of his Republicans opposed him on this issue.

81 senators voted for the legislative package (with 13 votes against) – and successfully overturned Trump’s veto. The two-thirds majority required for the vote in the republican-dominated chamber was comfortably exceeded. The legislative package on the defense budget comprises more than 4,500 pages and provides for a budget of around 740 billion dollars (611 billion euros).

Because it is politically unthinkable that the military budget does not materialize, the package in the USA usually also includes numerous regulations that are not directly related to the financing of the armed forces. The defense budget was passed with bipartisan support for 59 years in a row – this year too.

Withdrawal from Germany from the table for the time being

Democrats and Republicans have stipulated that Trump’s planned massive withdrawal of US soldiers from Germany will be blocked for the time being. The text of the law states that the US Secretary of Defense must state in a report to Congress whether such a withdrawal would be in the national interest of the US. At the earliest 120 days later, the number of US soldiers stationed in the Federal Republic may fall below the limit of 34,500. The law also provides that threatened sanctions against the German-Russian Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream 2 will be expanded.

Trump had vetoed the Congress decision. In support of this, he stated in a letter to the House of Representatives that the law was contrary to his government’s foreign policy and national security. Among other things, the President criticized the fact that online platforms were not being more strictly regulated. He had wanted Congress to change what is known as Section 230, which protects online platforms from being held responsible for content published by their users. Trump called the ruling “a serious threat to the national security and integrity of the elections”. Critics, in turn, accuse Trump of only wanting revenge on Twitter and Facebook. In addition, the renaming of several military bases, which was promoted after protests against racism, is a thorn in the side of Trump.

Defeat not yet admitted

Trump considers it unconstitutional that the withdrawal of soldiers from Afghanistan, South Korea and Germany ordered by him should now be limited by law. According to the constitution, the president is the commander in chief of the armed forces, he said. The decision as to how many soldiers should be deployed where is therefore his.

In his almost four-year term in office, Trump had previously vetoed legislative plans from Congress eight times. In none of these cases, however, had the necessary two-thirds majority achieved in the parliamentary chambers to override his veto. The Democrats have a majority in the House of Representatives and the Republicans in the Senate.

Trump lost the presidential election on November 3rd against the Democrat Joe Biden. Trump refuses to admit defeat. Biden is due to be sworn in on January 20th. Until then, Trump is still in office with all rights.

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