Republican-led Senate Armed Services Committee votes to require Pentagon to rename bases


The Republican-led Senate Armed Services Committee has approved an amendment to the annual defense policy bill that would require the Pentagon to rename bases and other assets that are named after Confederate military leaders..

The amendment, offered by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), was approved by voice vote Wednesday during the committee’s closed-door markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the source familiar with the situation said. The amendment would give the Pentagon three years to remove the Confederate names.

The news, which was first reported by Roll Call, comes after President Trump said he would “not even consider” renaming Army bases that are named after Confederate officers. 

During a briefing Wednesday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany also said Trump would veto the NDAA if the massive policy bill mandated changing the names of the bases.

"These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom," Trump tweeted.

"Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations," he added.

Just two days before Trump’s tweets, an Army spokesperson said Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Defense Secretary Mark Esper were “open” to renaming the 10 bases that are named after Confederate military officers.

The bases, which are in Southern states, are Fort Lee, Fort Hood, Fort Benning, Fort Gordon, Fort Bragg, Fort Polk, Fort Pickett, Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Rucker and Camp Beauregard.

The Army’s Monday position was a reversal from as recently as February, when the service said it had no plans to change the name of any base, including those named after Confederate officers.

The about-face came amid nationwide protests over police brutality and racial injustice sparked by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died when a white police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes. The officer has since been fired and charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

The inclusion of the amendment to force the Pentagon to change the base names, coupled with McEnany’s veto threat, potentially puts the White House on a collision course with Congress over what’s generally considered a must-pass bill. Republicans disinclined to confront the president still have opportunities to strip the amendment if they want, such as when the bill hits the Senate floor as soon as next week.

At least one Republican senator on the Armed Services Committee opposed the amendment.

"I opposed this amendment, spoke against it, and voted no in the committee," Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) tweeted Thursday. "Congress should not be mandating renaming of our bases and military installations."

The NDAA covers everything from routine matters such as troop pay and how many planes and ships the military can buy to, often, the hot-button defense issues of the moment.

“LET HIM VETO THE NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT OVER THIS ISSUE LET'S GO!” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) tweeted Wednesday night in response to the news about the amendment on base names.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, called the administration’s veto threat “despicable.” 

“It would be shameful enough for the current occupant of the Oval Office to refuse to even consider having the U.S. military stop honoring traitors who took up arms against America to defend their ability to own, sell and kill Black Americans,” Duckworth said in a statement. “But for the Trump White House to threaten vetoing a pay raise for our troops over this is downright despicable.”

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