WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday passed a $740 billion defense spending bill that includes a provision to remove the name of Confederate leaders from military bases — setting up a showdown with President Trump who is opposed to the move.
The GOP-controlled chamber overwhelming passed the legislation with a vote of 81 to 14 — well over the number required to override the presidential veto which Trump threatened to wield last month in a bid to stop the bill.
The National Defense Authorization Act includes a plan to change the names of army bases named after Confederate soldiers, such as Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Fort Benning in Georgia, which are named after Confederate Gens. Braxton Bragg and Henry Lewis Benning.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts introduced the provision which will require the Pentagon to establish a commission to rename within the next three years all military assets named after people who fought against the Union 155 years ago.
The sprawling legislation also includes a 3 percent pay hike for members of the military. The House on Tuesday passed the bill with a similar veto-proof bipartisan vote of 295 to 125.
Trump has been a vociferous opponent of the idea of renaming bases and threatened to veto the bill during an interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” over the weekend.
“I don’t care what the military says. I’m supposed to make the decision,” he said. “Fort Bragg is a big deal. We won two world wars — nobody even knows General Bragg. We won two world wars.”
“What are we going to rename it? You going to name it after the Reverend Al Sharpton? What are you going to name it, Chris?” he asked. “No, I’m not going to go changing them,” Trump added.
Cities across America have begun removing statues honoring Confederate leaders as the nation engages in an emotional conversation about race in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of white police officers in Minneapolis.
Warren explained her decision to introduce the motion in a tweet last month, writing: “It’s long past time to end the tribute to white supremacy on our military installations.”
Powerful allies of the president in Congress including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he had no problem with US military bases being renamed and has reportedly privately urged Trump to pass the sprawling funding bill.
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