GOP-Controlled Committee Passes Measure To Change Confederate Names On Military Bases

FORT HOOD, TX - JUNE 03: Media outlets gather outside the Bernie Beck gate at Fort Hood on June 3, 2016 in Fort Hood, Texas. The media were hoping for more information on drowning casualties and missing soldiers duri... FORT HOOD, TX - JUNE 03: Media outlets gather outside the Bernie Beck gate at Fort Hood on June 3, 2016 in Fort Hood, Texas. The media were hoping for more information on drowning casualties and missing soldiers during training at the army base that occurred June 2. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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June 11, 2020 2:25 p.m.

A Republican-controlled Senate committee approved legislation this week that would instruct the military to find different names for bases currently named after Confederate generals — despite President Donald Trump saying he opposes a change.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the amendment to the Senate Armed Services Committee as part of the regular military funding package known as the National Defense Authorization Act.

Warren’s amendment passed with a voice vote, Roll Call first reported Wednesday, and the NDAA cleared the committee 25-2. Warren thanked the committee Thursday afternoon.

“Donald Trump should listen to his own party members and Pentagon leaders who recognize that it’s time to respect generations of loyal US servicemembers and rename these bases,” she tweeted.

Trump on Wednesday vowed to oppose any effort to change the Confederate-named bases — which include massive stateside installations like Fort Bragg and Fort Hood. He tweeted of the amendment Thursday, “Hopefully our great Republican Senators won’t fall for this!”

So the Republican support for the measure was notable: Committee member Mike Rounds (R-SD), for example, told reporters that “we’re moving in the right direction.”

“I agree with the president that we don’t want to forget our history,” Rounds told CNN. “But at the same time that doesn’t mean that we should continue with those bases with the names of individuals who fought against our country.”

In a statement to TPM, Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) said he supported Waren’s amendment despite thinking it was “overly prescriptive in concluding every confederate era name on everything must be changed”

“As a northerner, I have never understood why we would name military bases after traitors,” Cramer said.

A spokesperson for Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) told TPM he supported the amendment as well

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) told CNN he didn’t have any problem with changing the base names.

“If you want to name them after soldiers, there’s been lots of great soldiers since the Civil War,” Blunt said, adding: “Braxton Bragg was probably the worst commanding general in the Confederate Army. Interesting general to name a fort after.”

A committee summary of the legislation listed Warren’s amendment under a series of proposals “to ensure we recruit and retain the best and to support military installations.”

In the summary’s words, the measure gives three years for a commission “to study and provide recommendations concerning the removal, names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederate States of America.”

The Associated Press reported that the eight-person commission would consist of four Defense Department officials and four senators of both parties.

The Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) voiced some frustration with the amendment to Politico, saying that local communities “ought to have veto authority.”

“I don’t want them to be in a position where they’re going to do something over the objection of the local communities,” he said. “We’ve got more forums coming up.”

A spokesperson for Inhofe pointed TPM to comments from the chairman that he would seek to alter the amendment down the line. Inhofe aims to water down the legislation’s language requiring the name changes and give local communities a say in whether the changes will ultimately happen.

And Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-SD) told CNN Thursday that it would be a “heavy lift” to remove anything from the committee’s bill, despite the President’s opposition.

“So, we’ll see where that discussion goes,” he said. “Like I said, I’ve seen what the President had said. I was not aware of that in there.”

Committee member Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) told CNN, “It’s an issue that we’re reviewing.”

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) tweeted Thursday morning that he opposed the amendment, saying that “Congress should not be mandating renaming of our bases and military installations.”

Trump and White House officials on Wednesday shut the door on murmurs from the Pentagon about possibly renaming the bases.

In tweets two days after the secretaries of defense and the Army said they were “open to a bipartisan discussion on the topic,” Trump said he would “not even consider” changing the names.

The bases, he said, represented a “history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom.” And White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Thursday that it showed “complete disrespect” to American soldiers to suggest that the forts themselves “were somehow inherently racist.”

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