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Trump excludes McCain in speech about defense bill named in his honor

Last Updated Aug 13, 2018 4:37 PM EDT

President Trump touted a defense spending bill Monday named in honor of Sen. John McCain, without mentioning McCain once. Mr. Trump made the remarks at the signing of H.R. 515, the "John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019," at Fort Drum Army Base in New York. 

The president has long been critical of McCain — he said during the campaign he likes people who weren't captured, a reference to McCain's time as a prisoner of war — and has repeatedly criticized the Arizona Republican's "no" vote on repealing Obamacare last year. 

The defense bill authorizes a total of $717 billion for military funding over the next year, including pay increases for service members. Mr. Trump often touts how much his administration is spending on the military, and, on Monday, called it the most significant investment in the military in modern history. 

"The NDAA is the most significant investment in our military and in our war fighters in modern history and I'm very proud to be a big, big part of it," the president said. 

"To survive and having that survival of our freedom it depends upon the mite of our military. And no enemy on earth can match the strength, courage and skill of the American Army and the American armed forces. Nobody's even close. They never will be."

The president visited after GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, invited him to come during his first term in office, pointing out that both former President George W. Bush and former President Barack Obama did so in their first terms. 

Mr. Trump joked that he didn't want to take Stefanik's call, but she persisted.

McCain's office issued a statement from the senator applauding the bill and its signing by the president. 

"This year's NDAA represents an important opportunity to implement an effective approach to confront a growing array of threats," McCain said in a statement. "The administration's National Defense Strategy outlined a framework for identifying and prioritizing these threats. Through the NDAA, Congress is fulfilling its duty to help translate that strategy into policy and align resources to implement it. Finally, I'm humbled that my colleagues in Congress chose to designate this bill in my name. Serving as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and working on behalf of America's brave service members has been one of the greatest honors of my life."

The signing at the base just south of the Canadian border comes after Mr. Trump spent some of the day attacking former "The Apprentice" star and former top White House aide Omarosa Manigault-Newman, amid her claims that she has multiple recordings of West Wing conversations. Mr. Trump blasted her on Twitter as a "lowlife" and "not smart."