President Donald Trump will travel to Upstate New York on Monday to sign a sweeping, $716 billion defense bill that sets policy priorities for the Pentagon and is named after one of the president’s most pointed Republican critics.
Trump will head to Fort Drum, represented by Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., to sign the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act, named after the Arizona senator and war hero who has been absent from the Senate this year as he undergoes treatment for brain cancer.
“I am proud of the partnership with this administration to begin rebuilding our military and the president’s visit is an important opportunity to highlight this achievement and to thank our men and women in uniform for their service,” Stefanik said in a statement announcing Trump’s visit. “I look forward to welcoming President Trump to Fort Drum and continuing to work to ensure our troops have the resources they need to keep us safe.”
Though physically absent from the Senate, McCain has remained one of Trump’s sharpest critics from his own party – be it the president’s performance abroad last month alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin, or the administration’s zero-tolerance policy that prompted separations of immigrant families at the border.
In turn, Trump repeatedly references McCain during campaign rallies, although not by name. Trump singles out the Arizona senator for voting against the Senate Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, often referencing the dramatic moment on the Senate floor last July when McCain helped kill the GOP bill with a thumbs-down vote.
But the annual defense policy measure is an overwhelmingly bipartisan measure that helps Trump boast of resources for the military, a top priority for the president. This year’s version, sent to the White House for Trump’s signature last week, also avoided potential political land mines that would have pushed back on some controversial administration policies.
For one, lawmakers got rid of a provision to undo the Trump’s administration’s agreement to ease penalties on the Chinese telecom giant ZTE. Several congressional Republicans had denounced the deal with ZTE, which had faced penalties for doing business with Iran and North Korea, but ultimately the administration’s side won out.
McCain chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, although Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., had handled much of the day-to-day work in McCain’s absence. Last year, Trump signed the annual defense authorization measure with a ceremony at the White House, flanked by top military officials and key lawmakers.
While in upstate New York on Monday, Trump will also participate in a fundraiser for Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., according to The Post-Standard in Syracuse.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Seung Min Kim