GOP senator introduces proposal to strip requirement to change Confederate-named bases

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) unveiled a proposal on Wednesday to nix a requirement included in a mammoth defense bill for the Pentagon to implement, within three years, a plan to rename bases and other military installations named for Confederates.

Hawley is expected to offer the proposal as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) when it is taken up on the Senate floor for debate.

“This latest effort to unilaterally rename bases and remove war memorials, all behind closed doors, smacks of the cancel culture the Left wants to impose on the nation,” Hawley said in a statement.

“Any discussion about renaming bases should be had in the light of day, out in the open, and it should involve military families, veterans, and state and local stakeholders. That’s what my amendment would do,” he added.

Hawley’s proposal would remove language from the defense bill that requires the Pentagon to change the names of bases currently named after Confederate figures.

The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), in a voice vote, agreed to include language in the defense policy bill that states that within three years the Defense secretary “shall implement the plan submitted by the commission … and remove all names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederate States of America … or any person who served voluntarily with the Confederate States of America from all assets of the Department of Defense.”

The commission would be tasked with making recommendations to the Defense Department on how to rename the installations and coming up with a plan to rename them.

Hawley’s amendment would add in a requirement that the commission work with state and local “stakeholders” to nominate alternative names, including holding public hearings. It would also require the commission to report to Congress so that lawmakers can make sure that the views are “substantially reflected” in the commission’s recommendations.

Whether or not to include a requirement that the Pentagon change the name of bases named after Confederates has emerged as an early sticking point in getting a final NDAA to President Trump’s desk.

The White House has warned that he would veto a bill that requires him to change the names, and Trump separately tweeted that he did not support changing them.

“The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars. Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations,” he tweeted earlier this month.

But supporters of changing the language included in the Senate’s bill face an uphill battle.

Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said earlier this month that changing the language was expected to require 60 votes, including the support of Democrats.

“I know Sen. [James] Inhofe [R-Okla.] has expressed an interest in having, you know, maybe looking at giving cities and communities and states input. … But by and large, you know, it came out of the committee, it’s in the base bill, it’ll probably take 60 votes to get it out,” Thune said earlier this month.

Hawley could try to bring up his amendment for a vote during the Senate’s NDAA debate, but any one Democratic senator could block him. An attempt by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to force a vote on the amendment would require 60 votes, giving Democrats another chance to block it.

Shortly after Hawley introduced his amendment, Senate Democrats introduced their own legislation that would cut down on the amount of time the Pentagon has to enact the plan from three years to one year.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) appeared to tip her hand to the potential floor fight over the language included with the NDAA.

“SASC has already passed a version of my proposal in the annual defense bill — and Senate Republicans should make sure that bipartisan compromise stays intact,” Warren said in a statement.

She added that Democrats were introducing the stand-alone legislation to try to change the name of Confederate-named bases within one year “because we need to stop honoring this ugly legacy immediately.”

The debate about Confederate names on U.S. military property was reignited in the wake of nationwide protests against racial injustice sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

This report was updated at 11 a.m.

Tags Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren John Thune Josh Hawley Military bases named for Confederates Mitch McConnell

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