Trump Tells Congress He’s Vetoing Defense Bill That Would Strip Confederate Names From Bases

STERLING, VA - DECEMBER 13: U.S. President Donald Trump climbs into golf cart number 45 as he golfs at Trump National Golf Club on December 13, 2020 in Sterling, Virginia. (Photo by Al Drago/Getty Images)
December 23, 2020 3:32 p.m.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday officially informed Congress that he was vetoing the year-end defense package, citing, among other things, Congress’ insistence on renaming military installations named after generals in the Confederacy.

The 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, Trump said, “includes provisions that fail to respect our veterans and our military’s history.” 

The $740 billion legislation passed both houses of Congress with more than the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto.

“Over the course of United States history, these locations have taken on significance to the American story and those who have helped write it that far transcends their namesakes,” Trump added in his statement.

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“My Administration respects the legacy of the millions of American servicemen and women who have served with honor at these military bases, and who, from these locations, have fought, bled, and died for their country.” 

Trump also objected to language in the bill aimed at blocking the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, Germany and South Korea, at least pending further evaluation the drawdown. “Not only is this bad policy, but it is unconstitutional,” he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a statement that the House would take up the veto override vote on Monday.

“Trump’s veto violates our national values, as it would block action to rename military bases and infrastructure named after those who served in the Confederacy – which is supported by an overwhelming majority of the American people, by House and Senate Democrats and Republicans and by our servicemembers and top military leaders,” Pelosi said.

The debate over the base renaming language dates back to June, when an amendment to rename the military installations from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) passed the Senate Armed Services committee via a voice vote. 

Several Republicans told TPM at the time that they supported changing the base names. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), on the other hand, said it was an affront to Americans’ “shared struggle” and argued the Civil War “gave us heroes and a more perfect union to love.” Trump threatened to veto the funding bill over the naming debate a few days later, and again in early December. 

Trump on Wednesday also complained about Congress’ failure to terminate Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which generally holds that websites are not liable for what users post on them. Section 230, Trump said, “facilitates the spread of foreign disinformation online, which is a serious threat to our national security and election integrity.”

Section 230 has become a hobbyhorse for some Republicans, including Trump, who claim social media outlets suppress conservative voices. In recent months, Trump has raged about Twitter fact-checking his claims of election fraud.

Trump also faulted the NDAA’s language limiting the use of emergency military construction funds — which he’s used to build wall on parts of the U.S.-Mexico border — and a provision regarding the development of 5G networks.

This post has been updated.

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