Corporate PAC Money the Dividing Line in Massachusetts Congressmen Split Over Trump Veto of Defense Spending Bill

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All six Massachusetts congressmen who voted yesterday to override President Donald Trump’s veto of a defense bill that would limit troop withdrawals from the Middle East take campaign donations from corporate political action committees, while the state’s three congressmen who voted against the override don’t.

All nine members of the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts are Democrats who oppose President Trump and frequently criticize him. But the bill divided them into taking pro-Trump and anti-Trump sides, at least for that moment.

At issue was a bill appropriating $740 billion for the U.S. military that would set limits on how many troops that president can bring home. Trump vetoed the bill December 23.

On Monday afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to override President Donald Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R.6395) bill. Trump refused to sign the bill in part because it does not repeal Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act of 1996, which gives online tech companies immunity from libel lawsuits for content posted on their web sites.

The core component of Section 230 reads, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

Trump maintains that social media companies, including Twitter, editorialize by highlighting or downplaying or restricting content based on its viewpoint and censor conservatives. He argues that if the libel shield is repealed, then these sites will not suppress conservative content, as Ars Technica points out.

The bill that Trump vetoed would also withhold funding for further U.S. troop reductions in the Middle East in 2021 unless either the Pentagon or another agency submits a report about how fewer U.S. troops in Afghanistan affects national security “and other issues,” according to Stars and Stripes. The United States currently has 4,500 troops in Afghanistan; the bill would prevent the president from unilaterally dipping below 4,000 troops and then eventually below 2,000 troops, as Trump wants.

The House voted to override Trump’s veto 322-87 with more Democrats voting in favor of the bill (212-20) than Republicans (109-66). At nearly 79 percent, the support was well more than the two-thirds needed to override the veto. It would take a two-thirds vote in the U.S. Senate to enact the bill over Trump’s veto.

All six House members from Massachusetts who voted for the override and for the bill take corporate political action committee money. They are:  U.S. Representatives Katherine Clark (D-Melrose), Bill Keating (D-Bourne), Stephen Lynch (D-South Boston), Seth Moulton (D-Salem), Richard Neal (D-Springfield), and Lori Trahan (D-Westford).

The three House members who voted against the override and against the bill don’t take corporate political action committee money. They are:  U.S. Representatives Jim McGovern (D-Worcester), Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Newton), and Ayanna Pressley (D-Dorchester).

Below is a breakdown of the amount of money each Massachusetts congressman has taken from defense contractor political action committees, according to Open Secrets:

Stephen Lynch:  $69,500 since 2001

Seth Moulton:  $180,189 since 2013

Katherine Clark:  $116,000 since 2013

Bill Keating:  $215,500 since 2009

Richard Neal:  $377,300 since 1989

Lori Trahan, $0 since 2017  (but $14,329 from individuals associated with defense contractors)

Ayanna Pressley, $0 since 2017 (she has never taken corporate PAC money but has received but $3,329 from individuals in the defense industry)

Joe Kennedy III:  $145,500 since 2011 (but he stopped accepting corporate PAC money in September 2019, when he began his ultimately unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate)

Jim McGovern:  $123,800 since 1989 (although he stopped accepting corporate PAC money in February 2019)

New Boston Post contacted the offices of all nine members of Congress on Tuesday morning, the day after the veto override vote. None responded immediately.

Supporters of U.S. military spending say it’s necessary to keep the country safe and to fulfill the country’s security commitments around the world, which, they argue, promote national interests. Some supporters contend that military campaigns in faraway places have prevented or diminished terrorist attacks on the home front.

Critics of the U.S. military budget often point to how much the United States outspends other countries for national defense.

The United States has by far the highest military budget in the world at $738 billion. Military spending accounts for 3.4 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. The next highest is China, which spent $178.2 billion on defense this year, according to Defense News. However, China’s military budget has expanded rapidly in recent years. As of 2006, China spent $55.34 billion. After China, India is a distant third, at $73.65 billion.

Critics also decry what they describe as waste in the U.S. military budget. For example, in January 2015 the Pentagon issued a report finding $125 billion in administrative waste that the report said could be cut over five years.

Additionally, opponents of the Afghanistan War argue that it too is a waste of money — and needlessly puts American lives in danger. The Afghan war costs about $45 billion annually, according to The Military Times. The United States has been at war in Afghanistan since 2001 and has spent more than $2 trillion there, according to The New York Times. It has also cost the country more than 2,200 lives, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

In all, 76 percent of Americans favor bringing the troops home from Afghanistan, according to The National Interest.

Some on the political Right who favor bringing the troops home argue that a better way to prevent Islamic terrorism in the United States is to heighten travel restrictions and pass stricter immigration laws.