WASHINGTON — Georgia Republicans overwhelmingly voted in favor of a national defense bill that includes 3% pay raises for troops and funding for programs at military installations across Georgia.
However, the measure also contains a provision to rename bases named after Confederate leaders, including two in Georgia, and lacks language pertaining to social media companies that President Donald Trump sought. As a result, Trump followed through on his promise and vetoed the legislation Wednesday.
Now, the Georgia congressional delegation’s 10 GOP members must decide whether they will vote next week to override the president’s veto and enact the National Defense Authorization Act anyway. The decision is particularly difficult for U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who have both linked their runoff campaigns to having the president’s support.
None of these congressional Republicans responded to a question about whether they will vote to override Trump’s veto. Although many are active on social media, none of them mentioned the NDAA in posts since the president’s decision became public.
Before Trump’s decision became public, Loeffler was non-committal about supporting an override. She said she would “certainly have a look at it, if that moment comes” but wanted to support the military.
There is disagreement among Republican senators about how to proceed. South Carolina U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said he will not vote to override Trump’s veto unless lawmakers approve an amendment that repeals the social media protections as the president asked.
On the other hand, the Republican chairman of the Senate’s Armed Forces Committee urged colleagues to move forward with making the bill law.
“The NDAA has become law every year for 59 years straight because it’s absolutely vital to our national security and our troops,” said U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma. “This year must not be an exception. Our men and women who volunteer to wear the uniform shouldn’t be denied what they need — ever.”
Both chambers approved the bill, HR 6395, earlier this month with veto-proof majorities. But this will be the first time Congress will attempt to gather the two-thirds vote needed to override a Trump veto, and some GOP lawmakers who previously supported the bill may be uncomfortable participating in such a public rebuke of a presidential action.
Democrats say they are ready to force the vote. Georgia U.S. Reps. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, and Kwanza Hall, D-Atlanta, both said they will vote yes again on the NDAA when the House meets Monday.
“The president’s stated reasons for vetoing this legislation — preserving the names of Confederate soldiers on military installations and regulating social media companies — are insufficient to block the funding of our military, providing pay increases to our men and women in uniform, and keeping our nation safe from global threats,” Hall said Wednesday.
U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Monroe, was the only member of Georgia’s delegation to vote against the bill. U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, a Tifton Republican who served on the conference committee that negotiated the final version, missed the vote because he was recovering from COVID-19. But he released a statement then saying he supported the legislation and hoped Trump would not veto it.
Perdue and Loeffler also voted in favor of the NDAA, although they later released a joint statement criticizing the base renaming provision that affects Georgia’s Fort Benning and Fort Gordon. The Senate is likely to meet Tuesday to discuss an override.
Staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this report.
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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com