We Need to Talk About the Defense Bill Veto

As promised, Donald Trump has vetoed the Defense Spending Bill

For those who don’t spend their days happily digging through policy and nomming on the legalese, the Defense Spending Bill is, basically, the bill that pays for the Military and all of its related…stuff. It pays for everything from paying the wages of the people who are currently actively serving in our armed forces to making sure that the lights stay on at Base Whateverthefrick. 

It is yet another tiny-fisted punch in the face of every single person who has or is currently serving in the military and to the people who love them and depend on them for their safety and livelihoods. 

If it’s so important, then, why did he veto it?

The short answer? Because he can. 

The longer answer? Because he’s mad at Twitter, mad at Congress, mad at voters, and doesn’t actually understand how laws, like, work and stuff.

The official answer? If you want to read the whole thing, the White House has released Trump’s Official Veto Message for anybody who wants to read it. 

If you don’t want to read the whole thing (and who can blame you), there are four main reasons he gives for vetoing, among other things, a 3% raise in pay to active service members. 

1. Because, like, China sucks, yo.

Note: He does not go into any sort of detail of *how* funding the military creates “a gift” to the Chinese, he just insists that it does. 

2. Because racism is awesome!

The bill contains funding earmarked for changing the names of some military bases that are currently named for Confederates—you know, the guys who insisted that white humans should totes be able to own non-white humans and treat them in whatever way made their tingly bits feel the tingliest? The dudes who were so in love with having slaves that they STARTED A WAR WITH THE GOAL OF DESTROYING THE COUNTRY to maintain their racist status quo? The side that LOST? Those guys. Several military bases are still named after some of those losers. Trump says that renaming those bases dishonors their legacy and that preserving the legacy of THE PEOPLE WHO TRIED TO DESTROY THE COUNTRY is more important than paying the people who are currently trying to defend it and keep it safe. 

Sorry. I got all capsy there for a minute, but that stuff really molds my cheese.

3. Because the bill limits the powers of the President re: Military Spending.

It took a while, but it seems that Congress is *finally* getting hip to some of Trump’s BS. Remember when he yanked a bunch of funding away from the military to pay for his wall? The bill says he can’t do that anymore without getting Congress’s permission first. So no, Donno—you can’t declare your billion dollars of outstanding debt “a national emergency” and use the military ‘s money to pay it back. 

While Trump’s whole “I should be able to spend your tax dollars on whatever I want” thing is concerning, it isn’t surprising. It probably matters more to him than a “gift” to China or the renaming of military bases, but the fourth reason he gives for his veto is the one that I think we can all agree matters to him the most:

4. Because the bill doesn’t repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

According to Trump, Sec230 needs to be repealed because it poses a huge national security risk.

This? Is a lie. 

Here’s a handy link to the actual text (including a Trump EO that tries to undo it) of Section 230.

If you don’t want to nerd out on all of the policy minutia, here’s a quick overview:

Section 230 says that internet sites—particularly those with a lot of user interaction—are distributors of content, not publishers and, therefore, cannot be held liable for content shared by the site’s users. It also gives the site owners discretion as “Good Samaritans” to label/restrict/block content (and the users who post it) that the site owners believe is harmful to other users and/or the public good. 

In Other Words

A) You can’t make Facebook give you a bag of money because you had a conniption fit when you saw what someone else posted. 

B) Facebook can flag or take down posts it deems harmful or that it decides violate its terms of service. It can also shut down your account and block you from setting up a new account if the powers that be in Facebook-land decide that you are a threat to the well-being of the majority of the other Facebook users.

Basically, Trump is vetoing the Defense Spending Bill because he’s mad that he can’t sue Twitter for adding comments to his tweets. 

Trump has repeatedly insisted that Twitter’s labels, etc. constitute some form of First Amendment violation and that, under the Constitution, Twitter, Facebook, etc., aren’t allowed to police his (or, theoretically, anybody else’s) speech. 

Section 230 isn’t about that. 

Even Trump’s EO, which tries to make the case that if a site’s owner wants to police users’ content then that owner forfeits their categorization as “distributor” and becomes a “publisher”, isn’t valid here because publishers are not constitutionally required to give every voice a platform. They get to pick and choose who they elevate. Remember: the first amendment guarantees your right to free speech. It does not guarantee your right to an audience. 

Nobody is stopping Trump from spewing whatever he wants online. If he wants to build a website on which he rants about every conspiracy theory and perceived slight, he’s free to do that. If he wants to use a private company like Twitter’s bandwidth to amplify his message then they get to set the rules for how his messages are broadcast. 

I’m pretty sure the only reason Trump is so focused on Section 230 (which, again, has nothing to do with national security, defense spending, or even the petty stuff he’s mad about) is because it contains language about “filing suit,” and we all know that Trump’s most favorite thing to do in the universe is to sue people. He probably heard it was about suing websites and decided it fit his needs. Because the devil isn’t in the details anymore. It’s in an ill-fitting suit wearing an ugly red tie. 

TL;DR: Trump is refusing to fund the military and his reasons for doing so are, like always, complete Bull Smoothie.