The US Senate voted to override President Trump’s veto of a defense bill on Friday, mandating sanctions on Turkey, in what comes as the first bipartisan rebuke of the President by way of a veto override in his four-year tenure.
In the overwhelming 81-13 vote, senators from both parties voted to override Trump’s veto of the $740.5 billion National Defense Authorization Act, a bill enacted annually for 60 years with bipartisan support.
The comprehensive bill would offer substantial pay raises to American soldiers, benefits to Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange, and remove names of Confederate leaders from military bases. It also allocates funds for the US to purchase more advanced weapons systems.
Notably, the bill also includes provisions for a mandate to sanction Turkey for its acquisition of the Russian S-400 air missile defense system. Currently, Turkey is the first and only NATO member to purchase the dangerous missile system.
Now that the massive defense bill has passed, President Trump must impose sanctions on Turkey within 30 days.
If Trump refuses to impose the sanctions, which include a ban on US banking and property transactions, the denial of US visas to those sanctioned, and forcing US lenders to deny loans to any sanctioned companies, they will fall on President-elect Joe Biden when he takes office on January 20.
The legislation also includes a provision that would authorize the US Air Force Secretary to use the six Turkish F-35A aircraft that were never delivered to Ankara after Turkey was suspended from the F-35 program.
Despite pushes from members of Congress and Senators, particularly Greek Americans in politics, President Trump has resisted sanctioning Turkey in the past.
Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has long pushed for sanctions against Turkey, citing existing US law that mandates sanctions against those who purchase the cutting-edge S-400 air missile defense system.
Sen. Menendez has questioned the nature of the relationship between President Trump and Erdogan, the Turkish leader.
Menendez cites Trump’s refusal to enforce congressionally mandated sanctions on Turkey, his decision to pull U.S. forces out of an area of northern Syria that has since been occupied by Turkish-backed forces, and statements regarding the Turkish President, as evidence of an unsavory relationship between the two leaders.
“In each of these examples, President Trump’s positions or silence appears to have been swayed by his relationship with President Erdogan, or his own personal interests in Turkey, rather focused on promoting U.S. national security interests,” Menendez said in a letter requesting documents pertaining the relationship between the leaders.
President Trump’s Veto
The President cited differing reasons for his veto. Trump hoped that a provision to remove Section 230 of Communications Decency Act, which provides immunity to social media companies in terms of the third-party content that they host.
On Twitter, President Trump’s preferred platform, the he stated that Section 230 gives “unlimited power to Big Tech companies.”
Our Republican Senate just missed the opportunity to get rid of Section 230, which gives unlimited power to Big Tech companies. Pathetic!!! Now they want to give people ravaged by the China Virus $600, rather than the $2000 which they so desperately need. Not fair, or smart!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2021
President Trump also expressed his disapproval of the removal of names of Confederate leaders from more than a dozen military bases included in the bill. Without explanation, the President also claimed that the bill’s passing was a big “gift” to Russia and China.
Before the Senate voted to override his veto, President Trump called Republican leadership “weak and tired” on Twitter on December 29, as he anticipated that members of his party would allow the bill to pass. The President closed his tweet with: “Negotiate a better Bill, or get better leaders, NOW!”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican from Kentucky, supported an override of President Trump’s veto of the sweeping bill.
McConnell stated Friday, in a rare moment of defiance of the President, “Not once in six decades has a Congress let its differences prevent it from completing this work for our national security and our men and women who wear the uniform.”